Experts at Darpa, the Pentagon’s advanced research agency, remain unsure of how China overcame physics restrictions by firing countermeasures — systems used to prevent weapons with active sensors from detecting and destroying a target — from a vehicle moving into hypersonic speed, according to people briefed on the demo details.
China’s hypersonic weapon test in July included a technological advance that permitted it to fire a missile as it moved toward its target traveling at least five times the speed of sound – an ability no nation has. demonstrated before. Pentagon scientists were surprised by the advance, which permitted the Hypersonic Glide Vehicle, a maneuverable spacecraft capable for conveying a nuclear warhead, to fire a separate missile mid-flight over the South China Sea. , as indicated by people familiar with the information.
Military experts are analyzing the test data to try to understand how China mastered this technology. They also discuss the aim of the projectile, which was fired by the hypersonic vehicle without a clear target and landed in the water.
Some Pentagon experts say they believe the projectile was an air-to-air missile — fired from one aircraft at another aircraft. Others think it was a countermeasure to destroy missile defense systems so that they cannot intercept the hypersonic weapon in times of war.
Russia and the United States have been trying to build hypersonic weapons for years, but experts say the countermeasure firing is the latest evidence that China’s efforts are significantly more advanced than those of the Kremlin or the Pentagon. The White House declined to comment on the countermeasure but said it remains concerned about the July 27 test, first reported by the Financial Times.
“This development is troubling for us, as it should be for all who seek peace and stability in the region and beyond,” said a National Security Council spokesman. “It also heightens our concern about the military capabilities that China continues to seek.”
The National Security Council added that the US “will continue to maintain the ability to defend itself and deter a range of threats” from China.
Pentagon officials have been increasingly vocal about their concerns about the Chinese test. The hypersonic slide vehicle was projected into space on an “orbital bombing system” rocket capable of flying over the South Pole, putting the weapon out of range of US missile defense systems focused on incoming ballistic missile threats. North Pole.
The orbital bombing system gives China more ways to hit American targets. Moscow used a system called the “fractional orbital bombing system” during the Cold War, but it was less advanced and did not carry a maneuverable hypersonic sliding vehicle. US officials are aware that China is ahead of the Pentagon in hypersonic weapons. But the July test showed that the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force is making even faster progress than many predicted. This was reinforced by Beijing’s successful combination of an orbital system with a hypersonic weapon capable of firing a missile.
The hypersonic test comes at a time when China is rapidly expanding its nuclear forces, suggesting that it is abandoning the “minimal deterrent” position it has held for decades. The US recently said it would quadruple its nuclear warheads by at least a thousand weapons this decade. The Chinese embassy said it was “not aware” of the missile test. “We are not at all interested in having an arms race with other countries,” said Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the embassy. “The US in recent years has made excuses like the ‘Chinese threat’ to justify its arms expansion and the development of hypersonic weapons.”
Beijing denied the Financial Times’ first revelation of the hypersonic weapon test, saying it was actually a test of a reusable space vehicle. But a test of that rover took place 11 days before the test of the hypersonic weapon, according to people briefed on the launches. The Financial Times also reported that China conducted another hypersonic weapon test on August 13th. Gen. David Thompson, deputy chief of space operations for the US Space Force, said the country “is not as advanced” as China or Russia in hypersonic weapons. “We have to catch up with them very quickly. The Chinese have had an incredibly aggressive hypersonic program for several years now,” Thompson told the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday.
General Mark Milley, the US joint chief of staff, recently called the weapons test a “Sputnik moment,” referring to when the Soviet Union was the first country to place a satellite in space in 1957. Lloyd Austin, the US secretary of defense, said this week that he would not use the same terms. But earlier this week, as he prepared to retire as vice president of the joint staff, General John Hyten expressed significant concern. “Sputnik has created a sense of urgency in the United States,” Hyten told CBS News. “The test on July 27th didn’t create that sense of urgency. I think it should probably create a sense of urgency.”
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