China rapidly advancing hypersonic weapons technology

hypersonic glide vehicle testing
A hypersonic glide vehicle undergoes testing in a wind tunnel in a special feature on Chinese state television.

A top US military official has claimed that China is developing an intercontinental range hypersonic weapons, which could challenge the ability of US detection systems to provide precise warning.

Chinese testing

In his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on 13 February 2020, US Air Force General Terrence J O’Shaughnessy, commander of US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), noted that China is testing a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) similar to the Russian Avangard system.

Gen. O’Shaughnessy did not provide details of the Chinese testing, but other US officials have earlier expressed concern that China could overtake the US in fielding hypersonic weapons technologies.

Michael Griffin, Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, earlier remarked that China has completed 20 times as many hypersonic tests as the US, and told reporters that “responding to that would be my highest technical priority”.

Hypersonic Waverider Xing Kong 2

The state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) claimed in August 2018 that it had successfully developed and tested China’s first experimental hypersonic waverider, called Xing Kong 2 (Starry Sky 2).

CASC stated in its official social media account that the test vehicle had been in development for three years and was launched in northwestern China. Following a 10-minute ascent via a booster rocket and separation, the waverider successfully performed independent flight for over 400 seconds and attained a maximum speed of Mach 6 (4,000 knots / 7,408 km/h) and ceiling of 98,000ft (30km) before being recovered whole at a predetermined landing zone.

Hypersonic Glide Vehicle DF-ZF 

China has conducted at least seven tests of another experimental HGV known as the DF-ZF (and previously the WU-14) since 2014. These have typically employed a booster launcher derived from an existing ballistic missile to launch the test vehicle.

The latest known test of the DF-ZF occurred in November 2017, were it was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre (JSLC) in Inner Mongolia. The HGV payload reportedly travelled approximately 756 nautical miles (1,400km) following its atmospheric re-entry phase, achieving speeds of 6,082kts (11,265km/h) during its flight test.

In May 2018, China’s National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) displayed an air-launched, scramjet-powered hypersonic missile development called the Lingyun-1, which is believed to have been first tested in 2015.

by Jr Ng