China tests hypersonic missile system
CHINA has tested a hypersonic missile-delivery vehicle that is capable of delivering nuclear warheads at ultra-high speeds and penetrating existing missile-defence systems, United States officials confirmed with the Washington Free Beacon.
The experimental hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), dubbed Wu-14 by the Pentagon, was detected travelling at Mach 10 - or 10 times the speed of sound - during a flight test over China last Thursday, the online newspaper reported.
"We routinely monitor foreign defence activities and we are aware of this test," said Pentagon spokesman Jeffrey Pool.
"However, we don't comment on our intelligence or assessments of foreign weapon systems," he added.
The hypersonic vehicle appears to be designed for launch atop a missile. It is boosted to near space, then glides to its target at extremely high speed.
The US, Russia and China are all engaged in a hypersonic arms race.
China is the second country - after the US - to have successfully tested a hypersonic delivery vehicle capable of carrying nuclear warheads at a speed above Mach 10, the South China Morning Post said.
The US has tested the Lockheed HTV-2 or Hypersonic Technology Vehicle, an unmanned, missile-launched manoeuvrable aircraft that glides to earth at speeds of up to Mach 20, or 21,000kmh.
"The beauty of the HGV is that it can perform hypersonic precision strikes while maintaining a relatively low altitude and flat trajectory, making it far less vulnerable to missile defences," said analyst Rick Fisher of the International Assessment and Strategy Center.
Conventional cruise missiles travel at about 800kmh to 1,000kmh.
Last week, Forbes reported that Russia's next-generation bomber, the PAK-DA, will be equipped with hypersonic precision guided missiles.