The New Arms Race: China Matches US Threat of Hypersonic Bombers

January 18th, 2014 - by admin

RT News & Tim Hornyak / CNET – 2014-01-18 01:11:39

China Confirms New Hypersonic glide Vehicle Test-flight
RT News

(January 15, 2014) — China confirmed conducting a test flight of a new hypersonic missile delivery vehicle capable of delivering nuclear warheads with record-breaking speeds. The move is purely scientific and not targeted at any country, said the Defense Ministry.

“Our planned scientific research tests conducted in our territory are normal,” said the Beijing Defense Ministry as cited by Reuters on Wednesday. “These tests are not targeted at any country and at any specific goals.”

The ministry’s statement confirmed a report by the Washington Free Beacon on Monday. The newspaper cited US Pentagon officials saying that a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) was detected flying at ten times the speed of sound over China on January 9. (ZZZlink) 

The officials added that the ultra-high speed missile vehicle is aimed at “delivering warheads through US missile defenses.”

The HGV dubbed the WU-14 was reportedly designed to be launched as the final stage of China’s intercontinental ballistic missile. Its hypersonic speed range reportedly lies between Mach 5 and Mach 10, or 3,840 to 7,680 miles per hour. 

US Congress voiced concerns on Tuesday fearing the country is falling behind in the international hypersonic arms race. 

“While round after round of defense cuts have knocked America’s technological advantage on its back, the Chinese and other competitor nations push towards military parity with the United States; in some cases, as in this one, they appear to be leaping ahead of us,” Chairman Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R., Calif.) and Reps. Randy Forbes (R., Va.) and Mike Rogers (R., Ala.) said in a statement as cited by Washington Free Beacon. 

The newspaper also said the test made China the second country after the US to have successfully tested a hypersonic delivery vehicle able to carry nuclear warheads at a speed above Mach 10. 

Hypersonic vehicles, designed by the US, Russia and India, are developed for precise targeting and rapid delivery of weapons. They are intended to counter hostile missile and space defenses. 

Annual increases in China’s military spending have allowed Beijing to boost the quality and performance of domestic weapons and military hardware.

According to Chinese technical reports from December 2012 and April 2013 the country is developing precision guidance systems designed to be directed via satellite. 

Russia too has confirmed the development of “a new class of hypersonic vehicle” that would “allow Russian strategic missiles to penetrate missile defense systems,” according to the Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center.

The Pentagon’s Hypersonic Bomb: One-hour Delivery?
The US Army’s Advanced Hypersonic Weapon can travel about five times the speed of sound and strike anywhere on Earth in less than an hour.

Tim Hornyak / CNET

(November 18, 2011) — The US Army has successfully tested a hypersonic aircraft that can travel five times the speed of sound and reach anywhere on Earth in under an hour.

Described by the Pentagon as a “glide vehicle, designed to fly within the earth’s atmosphere at hypersonic speed and long range,” the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) was launched aboard a rocket from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii.

It hit a target at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, some 2,300 miles away, in less than 30 minutes, according to Department of Defense and AP reports.

Hypersonic vehicles are assumed to fly faster than five times the speed of sound, roughly 3,800 mph. Unlike a missile, the glide vehicle can be maneuvered.

“The objective of the test is to collect data on hypersonic boost-glide technologies and test range performance for long-range atmospheric flight,” the DOD said in a release. “Mission emphasis is aerodynamics; navigation, guidance, and control; and thermal protection technologies.”

The weapon is part of Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS), a program that would give the US the power to strike anywhere in the world with conventional weapons in less than an hour.

DARPA’s Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) is also part of the program. Although it failed a test in August, data was used in planning the AHW flight.

The Pentagon has spent $239.9 million on the program this year, including $69 million for the AHW, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

“These weapons would not substitute for nuclear weapons in the US war plan,” it said, “but would, instead, provide a ‘niche’ capability, with a small number of weapons directed against select, critical targets, which might expand the range of US conventional options.”

Tim Hornyak is the author of “Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots.” He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.

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