Chinese hypersonic weapon fired missile at South China Sea – .

Chinese hypersonic weapon fired missile at South China Sea – .

China’s hypersonic weapon test in July included a technological advance that allowed it to fire a missile as it approached its target traveling at least five times the speed of sound – a capability no country has. demonstrated before.

Pentagon scientists were caught off guard by the advance, which allowed the Hypersonic Glide Vehicle, a maneuverable spacecraft capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, to fire a separate missile mid-flight over the South China Sea. , according to people familiar with the information.

Experts at Darpa, the Pentagon’s advanced research agency, are still unsure how China overcame the constraints of physics by firing countermeasures from a vehicle traveling at hypersonic speeds, the researchers said. people familiar with the details of the demonstration.

Military experts have looked at the data related to the test to understand how China has harnessed the technology. They also debate the purpose of the projectile, which was fired by the hypersonic vehicle with no obvious target, before plunging into the water.

Some Pentagon experts believe the projectile was an air-to-air missile. Others believe it was a countermeasure to destroy the missile defense systems so that they could not bring down the hypersonic weapon in wartime.

Russia and the United States have also used hypersonic weapons for years, but experts say the firing of countermeasures is the latest evidence that China’s efforts are significantly ahead of the Kremlin or the Pentagon.

The White House declined to comment on the countermeasure, but said it remained concerned about the July 27 test, which was first reported by the Financial Times last month.

“This development concerns us as it should be for all those who seek peace and stability in the region and beyond,” said a spokesperson for the National Security Council. “It also builds on our concern about the many military capabilities that the People’s Republic of China continues to pursue. “

The NSC added that the United States “will continue to maintain the defense and deterrent capabilities against a range of threats” from China.

What is a hypersonic gliding vehicle?

A Long March 7 orbital launcher used to send a Chinese cargo ship into orbit in 2017 © AFP via Getty Images

There are two types of hypersonic weapons. The first is a very maneuverable, engine-powered missile. The second is a sliding vehicle.

The hypersonic glide vehicle is a spacecraft – much like the space shuttle – that is launched into orbit on a rocket. It then re-enters the atmosphere and flies towards its target at more than five times the speed of sound.

The heavyweight can act like a conventional weapon using its speed to destroy a target on impact. But China is developing heavy goods vehicles that can carry nuclear warheads.

Pentagon officials have increasingly publicly expressed their concerns about the July test. The hypersonic glide vehicle was propelled into space on an “orbital bombardment system” rocket that can fly over the South Pole, putting the weapon out of reach of US missile defense systems, which focus on missile threats. ballistic from the North Pole.

The orbital bombardment system gives China more means to hit American targets. Moscow deployed a system called the “Fractional Orbital Bombing System” during the Cold War, but it was less advanced and did not carry a maneuverable hypersonic glide vehicle.

US officials are well aware that China is ahead of the Pentagon in hypersonic weapons. But the July 27 test showed that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force was advancing even faster than many had expected. This was reinforced by Beijing successfully combining an orbital system with a hypersonic weapon capable of firing a missile.

The hypersonic test comes as China rapidly expands its nuclear forces, in a way that suggests it is abandoning the “minimal deterrence” posture it has maintained for decades. The United States recently said it would quadruple its nuclear warheads by at least 1,000 weapons this decade.

The Chinese embassy said it was “unaware” of the missile test.

“We are not at all interested in an arms race with other countries,” said Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the embassy. “In recent years, the United States has fabricated excuses like ‘the Chinese threat’ to justify its arms expansion and the development of hypersonic weapons.

Beijing rejected the FT’s first disclosure of the hypersonic weapons test, saying it was more of a test of a reusable spacecraft. But a test of this spacecraft took place 11 days before the hypersonic weapons test, according to people familiar with the two launches. The FT also reported that China conducted another hypersonic weapons test on August 13.

US Space Force vice chief of space operations General David Thompson said the US was “not as advanced” as China or Russia in hypersonic weapons.

“We have some catching up to do very quickly. The Chinese have had an incredibly aggressive hypersonic program for several years, ”Thompson told the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday.

General Mark Milley, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently called the weapon test a “Sputnik moment,” a reference to the Soviet Union becoming the first to put a satellite in the space in 1957.

Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense, said this week he would not use the same language. But earlier this week, as he prepared to retire as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. John Hyten expressed deep concerns.

“Sputnik has created a sense of urgency in the United States,” Hyten told CBS News. “The July 27 test did not create this sense of urgency. I think that should probably create a sense of urgency.

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