China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August and orbited the Earth before accelerating towards its target. This demonstrated the advanced space capabilities that surprised US intelligence agencies.
Five test-savvy people said the Chinese army launched a rocket carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle, flew in low-Earth orbit and then cruised toward its target.
The missile missed the target by about 20 miles, according to three people briefed on intelligence. But the two said tests showed that China had made tremendous progress with hypersonic weapons, far beyond what US officials were aware of.
The test raised new questions as to why the United States often underestimated China’s military modernization.
“I don’t know how they did this,” said the fourth person.
The United States, Russia and China are all developing hypersonic aircraft. This includes a glide vehicle that is rocket-launched into space but orbits the Earth with its own momentum. They fly at five times the speed of sound, slower than ballistic missiles. However, they do not follow the fixed parabolic trajectory of ballistic missiles and are manipulable, making tracking difficult.
China’s nuclear weapons policy expert Taylor Flavel, unaware of the test, said a supersonic glide vehicle equipped with a nuclear warhead was a US missile defense system designed to destroy incoming ballistic missiles. Said that it could help to “deny”.
“Supersonic Glide Vehicle ….. Flavel, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said:
Fravel added that if China fully developed and deployed such weapons, it would “stabilize”, but tests warned that Beijing did not necessarily mean deploying its capabilities.
Concerns about China’s nuclear capabilities are rising as Beijing continues to build on its traditional military capabilities and engages in increasingly active military operations near Taiwan.
Tensions between the United States and China have increased as the Biden administration has made harsh efforts on Beijing, which has accused Washington of being overly hostile.
U.S. military officials in recent months have warned of China’s growing nuclear capacity, especially after the release of satellite imagery showing that China is building more than 200 intercontinental missile silos. China is not bound by an arms control agreement and does not want the United States to be involved in negotiations on nuclear weapons and policies.
Last month, US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall hinted that Beijing was developing a new weapon. He said China has made great strides, including “potential for global strikes.” .. .. From space. ” He refused to provide details, but before China abandoned it, he said he was developing something similar to the “partial orbital bombing system” that the Soviet Union had deployed for parts of the Cold War. Suggested.
“If you use such an approach, you don’t have to use a traditional ICBM orbit. This is a way to circumvent defense and missile warning systems,” says Kendall.
In August, General Glenn Vanhelk, director of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said at a meeting that China “recently demonstrated the capabilities of a very advanced hypersonic glide vehicle.” He warned that China’s capabilities “provide a significant challenge to my Norad’s ability to provide threat alerts and attack assessments.”
Two people familiar with Chinese testing said the weapon could theoretically fly over Antarctica. Since the missile defense system is focused on the Arctic route, it will be a big challenge for the US military.
Revelation comes when the Biden administration implements a nuclear posture review. The Nuclear Posture Review is a policy and capability mandated by Congress that has defeated arms control advocates against those who believe the United States must do more to modernize its nuclear weapons for China. It’s an analysis.
The Pentagon did not comment on the report, but expressed concern about China. “We have expressed concern about China’s continued pursuit of military power, its ability to increase tensions both inside and outside the region,” said spokesman John Kirby. “That’s one of the reasons we see China as the biggest paced challenge.”
The Chinese embassy declined to comment on the test, but spokesperson Liu Pengyu said China has always pursued “essentially defensive” military policy and its military development is not targeted at any country. Stated.
“There is no global strategy or plan for military operations like the United States, and we are not at all interested in an arms race with other countries,” Liu said. “In contrast, the United States has in recent years created excuses like the” China threat “to justify the expansion and development of hypersonic weapons. This directly intensified the arms race in this category and significantly compromised the strategic stability of the world. “
An Asian national security official said Chinese troops conducted tests in August. China generally announced the launch of a long march rocket of the type used to launch a hypersonic glide vehicle into orbit, but significantly concealed the August launch.
Security officials, and another Chinese security expert close to the PLA, said the weapon was being developed by the Chinese Academy of Aerospace and Aerodynamics. CAAA is a laboratory under the umbrella of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, a leading state-owned company that manufactures missile systems and rockets for China’s space program. According to both sources, the hypersonic glide vehicle was launched by the Long March rocket used in the space program.
The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, which oversees the launch, said on July 19 in its official social media account that it had launched the Long March 2C rocket, adding that it was the 77th launch of the rocket. On August 24, it announced that it had made its 79th flight. However, the 78th launch was not announced, and speculation flew among space program observers about the secret launch. CAAA did not respond to the request for comment.
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