Reports have claimed that China tested a new space capability by launching a nuclear capable hypersonic missile as the US-China tension has mounted to a threatening point.
The Sunday’s report cited multiple sources familiar with the test and said that Beijing launched the nuclear-capable missile in August.
The reports described how the missile circled the Earth at low orbit before speeding towards its target, adding “demonstrating an advanced space capability that caught US intelligence by surprise”.
Three people briefed on the intelligence said that the missile missed its target by approximately 20 miles (32 kilometres).
However, two of them said that the experiment revealed that China had made surprising progress on hypersonic weapons and that She was far more advanced than US officials realised.
The sources added that the hypersonic glide vehicle was carried by a Long March rocket, launches of which China usually announces, though the August test was kept a secret.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby denied commenting on the specifics of the report. However, he added, “We have made clear our concerns about the military capabilities China continues to pursue, capabilities that only increase tensions in the region and beyond. That is one reason why we hold China as our number one pacing challenge.”
Along with China, the US, Russia and at least five other countries are experimenting with hypersonic technology.
Hypersonic missiles, like traditional ballistic missiles which can deliver nuclear weapons, can fly at more than five times the speed of sound.
Nevertheless, Unlike ballistic missiles, they fly high into space in an arc to reach their target. A hypersonic missile flies on a trajectory low in the atmosphere, potentially reaching a target more quickly.
Crucially, a hypersonic missile is hard to
track because it is manoeuvrable. While advanced countries like the US have designed systems to defend against cruise and ballistic missiles, the ability to track and take down a hypersonic missile remains questionable.
The recent US Congressional Research Service claimed that China has been aggressively developing the technology, seeing it as crucial to defend against US gains in hypersonic and other technologies.
The reported test comes as US-China tensions have been accelerated and Beijing has increased its military activity near Taiwan, the self-ruled US-aligned democracy that the Beijing sees as a breakaway province.