The Chinese have celebrated after testing a new space capability with a hypersonic missile, which has caught US officials by surprise. Back in August, China launched a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that is able to orbit the globe in low orbit, before descending to Earth towards its target.
The hypersonic glide vehicle was carried by a Long March rocket.
A report, featured in the Financial Times, cited multiple sources saying that despite the missile missing its target by over 20 miles (32 kilometres), it has still caught the attention of the US.
The technological development caught the US intelligence community by surprise.
It cited that sources had said that it shows “astonishing progress” made by China “on the development of its hypersonic weapons”.
One person familiar with the test expressed disbelief over the incident saying: “We have no idea how they did this.”
Beijing has mocked the US by saying that the secret test of the missile is a “new blow to the US’s mentality of strategic superiority over China”.
The snub came in an op-ed in Beijing’s state media outlet Global Times, which also referred to the test as being “a key new member in China’s nuclear deterrence system”.
It said: “If the FT report is to be believed, it means that there is a key new member in China’s nuclear deterrence system, which is a new blow to the US’ mentality of strategic superiority over China.
“It is important to note the unstoppable trend that China is narrowing the gap with the US in some key military technologies as China is continuously developing its economic and technological strength.”
It also added that China “doesn’t need to engage in an ‘arms race’ with the US” and cited that it is “it is capable of weakening the US’ overall advantages over China by developing military power at its own pace”.
The hypersonic missiles can reach speeds of up to 21,000mph, meaning it can strike anywhere on Earth from space within minutes.
As the missile is manoeuvrable, it means detecting and defending against it is a difficult feat.
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It can also deliver nuclear weapons and fly at more than five times the speed of sound.
In contrast to ballistic missiles which fly into outer space before returning on steep trajectories, hypersonic weapons fly towards targets at lower altitudes.
The system developed by China is a contrast to US anti-ballistic missile defence systems, based in Alaska, which can shoot down projectiles coming over the North Pole.
The Chinese system, in contrast, would be able to strike the US from the south.
Apart from China, other countries are also working on similar technologies.
Eight nations including Russia and the United States are developing their own hypersonic weapons.
While The Pentagon did not comment on China’s testing of the hypersonic missile, they did acknowledge that China is their “number one pacing challenge”.
The comment came from John Kirby, press secretary, Department of Defense, as the two countries work on developing hypersonic weapons.
He told Fox News: “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.”