The top secret testing of a new ultra-high-speed missile by China last week could lead to a weapon that would have a “profound effect” on the nation’s security, a US military expert said.
As reported on Monday in Washington, China’s military conducted a first flight test on Thursday last week on a hypersonic “glide vehicle,” which may be able to deliver warheads at speeds too fast for any existing defense system to counteract them.
According to security correspondent Bill Gertz, writing in the Washington Free Beacon, the vehicle flew over China at speeds ranging from Mach 8 to Mach 12, or from 9,656kph to 14,484kph.
“As the likely testing base for such a new missile-launched weapon would have been Taiyuan in Shaanxi Province, it is indeed possible that Taiwan was able to monitor parts of the test via its new long-range phased array radar,” said Rick Fisher, a military analyst at the International Assessment and Strategy Center (IASC).
“A Chinese weapon based on a Hypersonic Glide Vehicle [HGV] would have a profound effect on the security of Taiwan,” Fisher said.
It would likely evade most of Taiwan’s missile defenses until the nation could obtain rail guns or laser weapons, which the US does not even have for its own forces, he said.
“However, on a higher plane, future PLA [People’s Liberation Army] HGV weapons would pose a new and more dangerous indirect threat to Taiwan because they would also threaten US bases in Japan and Guam, and threaten the US naval forces that would seek to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack,” Fisher said.
“If states like Japan, South Korea and even Taiwan see that they cannot defend themselves with non-nuclear means, then nuclear options become far more attractive,” he said.
“The hypersonic vehicle represents a major step forward in China’s secretive strategic nuclear and conventional military and missile programs,” which was detected traveling at “extremely high speeds,” Gertz said.
Gertz said the hypersonic craft appeared to have been designed to be launched atop one of China’s intercontinental ballistic missiles and to glide and maneuver at speeds of up to 10 times the speed of sound from near space on the way to its target.
“We routinely monitor foreign defense activities and we are aware of this test,” Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Pool said.
The US and Russia are also working on hypersonic aerospace vehicles.
Gertz quoted China military affairs specialists as saying that the test was a “significant milestone” for Beijing’s high-technology arms development.
China was also said to be developing a hypersonic scramjet-powered vehicle that could take off independently or be launched from a bomber.
The US expects to field hypersonic arms within 10 to 15 years that will be capable of reaching any location on Earth within an hour.
Gertz said that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin recently compared the development of hypersonic weapons to the emergence of atomic weapons in the 1950s.
According to Rogozin, the first nation to master hypersonic weapons would launch a new revolution in military affairs.