What weapon tested by China surprised the American services of

What weapon tested by China surprised the American services of

In August, a Chinese-launched hypersonic rocket circled the Earth, taking US intelligence by surprise. China has invested heavily in missiles and space capabilities in recent years, and as with 5G technology, Americans are increasingly concerned that Beijing is gaining ground in the race to develop a new generation of weapons.

The hypersonic rocket tested in August by China made a complete orbit around the Earth, before accelerating towards the target, thus proving advanced capabilities. Five people close to the test team reported that the rocket launched by the Chinese army moved into low Earth orbit before reaching its target, which it missed by about 30 kilometers. The test shows amazing progress in hypersonic weapons, far beyond what US officials knew – “we have no idea how they did it” – raising new questions as to why the US continues to underestimate the modernization of the Chinese military, according to the Financial Times.

In late October, the head of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, compared the test to the “Sputnik moment.” conquest of space). What we have seen is an important event in testing a hypersonic ballistic system and it is extremely worrying. I don’t know if it’s really a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s close, “Milley was quoted as saying by CNN.

Suspicions

China’s intentions, judging by this type of test, are hard to guess, but it is certain that it has invested heavily in missiles and space capabilities in recent years, in parallel with the development of conventional forces and cyber combat capabilities, comments CNN.

The US, Russia and China are developing all-hypersonic weapons, including gliders that are launched into space by rockets, but they orbit the Earth at five times the speed of sound, so slower than a ballistic missile. However, they do not follow a fixed parabolic trajectory of a ballistic missile and are more difficult to spot, track and destroy.

Taylor Fravel, an expert on Chinese nuclear weapons policy who did not know about the test, believes that the hypersonic vehicle equipped with a nuclear warhead could allow China to “neutralize” US anti-missile systems. “These hypersonic vehicles fly in lower trajectories and can be maneuvered in flight, making them difficult to spot and destroy,” said Fravel, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He also believes that it would be “destabilizing” if the Chinese state develops and uses this type of weapon, but on the other hand points out that a test does not automatically mean that Beijing would use this capability.

However, there is growing concern about China’s nuclear capabilities and the strengthening of its conventional military force, and the intensification of military activity near Taiwan, the Financial Times comments. Moreover, tensions between the US and China have also risen amid the harsh stance taken by the Biden administration on Beijing, which accuses Washington of being openly hostile.

Real fears?

For Republican Congressman Michael Gallagher, the ballistic test should trigger action by the United States. “The Chinese military clearly has the ability to undermine our missile defense, which means it can threaten US territory with both conventional and nuclear strikes. The most disturbing thing is that the program for hypersonic missiles was also made with American technology “, he commented.

In recent months, US military officials have drawn attention to the development of China’s nuclear capability, especially after satellite images indicated that it had built more than 200 silos for intercontinental missiles. In addition, China is not a party to any arms control treaty.

Last month, Frank Kendall, the US Secretary of the Air Force, hinted that Beijing is developing a new weapon. China has made huge strides, including its ability to hit global space. He did not want to give details, but suggested that he develop something similar to the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) that the USSR partially deployed during the Cold War before abandoning it in 1983.

FOBS was a Soviet program for an intercontinental ballistic missile that, after launch, could enter low Earth orbit and then descend to the target, having virtually unlimited range. In addition, its orbital trajectory, unlike a ballistic trajectory, could not reveal the coordinates of the targets.

General Glen Van Herck, head of NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), also recently pointed out that China’s new capabilities will raise significant issues in warning and assessing the possibility of an attack.

Moreover, two people close to the Chinese test say that, in theory, the rocket could fly over the South Pole, which would make it difficult for the US military, whose defensive systems are centered and calibrated on the North Pole route.

Hu Xijin, an editor at Global Times, an ultra-nationalist Chinese government publication, tweeted that Beijing would improve its nuclear capability “to ensure that the United States gave up the idea of ​​further blackmailing China.”

In response, the Pentagon has expressed concern about China’s actions and is “the reason why it remains the number one challenge for us,” according to Financial Times spokesman John Kirby.

Reaction

China’s Foreign Ministry has denied that the Chinese state tested a hypersonic missile. “It was just a routine test of a spacecraft in order to verify the re-use of that space technology,” said spokesman Zhao Lijian, without explaining why China did not announce the test at that time ( august ac).

A Chinese security expert close to the Chinese military said the weapon was developed by the Chinese Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA), a research institute under the umbrella of the main state-owned company that produces missile and space rocket systems for the National Space Program. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

On July 19, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, the organization that coordinates the launches, announced on a social network that it had launched a Long March 2C rocket for the 77th time. On August 24, he announced that the 79th launch had been made. Nothing was said about the 78th release, which fueled speculation about a secret launch. The CAAA declined to comment.

Race

Both the United States and Russia are developing hypersonic weapons.

ROCKET & PLANER. The US does not yet have hypersonic missiles in its arsenal, but is working to obtain them. DARPA, the scientific division of the US military, announced in October that it had successfully tested the HAWC hypersonic rocket with aerobic propulsion. The Pentagon is developing the ARRW hypersonic glider, which was tested in April but was unsuccessful. COMPETITION. Russia also announced in October that it had successfully launched a Zircon hypersonic cruise missile from a submarine for the first time. The rocket was hailed by President Vladimir Putin as part of a new generation of weapons.

This article appeared in issue 128 of . magazine

PHOTO: Getty