Washington Free Beacon on January 15, 2014, reported that China’s Defense Ministry confirmed that weapons designers recently conducted the first test of an ultra-high speed missile vehicle considered cutting edge military technology. Excerpts below:
In a two-sentence statement faxed to news agencies and state-run media in Beijing, the ministry confirmed the flight test of a new hypersonic glide vehicle.
U.S. defense officials said the test of what the Pentagon is calling the WU-14 hypersonic glide vehicle took place Jan. 9 over China.
The ministry confirmed the test after it was first reported by the Washington Free Beacon Jan. 13.
China military affairs analysts said the hypersonic vehicle test represents a major milestone in China’s military buildup of weapons it calls “assassin’s mace” arms—weaponry designed to allow a weaker power to defeat a stronger one.
Officials familiar with some details of the hypersonic glide vehicle test said the high-speed glider appears designed to fit on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Using that booster, the vehicle is lofted to a height of 62 miles or less and then released. It then maneuvers at speeds as high as Mach 10, or 7,680 miles per hour, to its target.
U.S. missile defenses are designed to counter hypersonic targets, namely ballistic missile warheads. What is different about the hypersonic vehicle is that its trajectory does not enter space, and that makes it more difficult to detect, track, and intercept with a missile defense interceptor.
Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jeffrey Pool confirmed the test last week. “We routinely monitor foreign defense activities and we are aware of this test,” he said.
On Capitol Hill, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and two subcommittee chairman voiced concerns over what they said was a technological “leap” by the Chinese with the hypersonic vehicle test.
“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.), Rep. Randy Forbes (R., Va.), and Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.) said in a statement Jan. 14.
“The implication is that the more U.S. officials say about Chinese military developments, the more it is possible to encourage China to itself become more transparent militarily,” an expert at the International Assessment and Strategy Center said.
“It appears that for too long U.S. officials have refused to disclose publicly what it is possible to reveal, even within limits needed to protect sources, because these officials feared offending their Chinese counterparts.”
“China’s test of a hypersonic glide vehicle proves that American reticence about China’s high-tech military developments diminishes American security by detracting from a needed political debate about real American defense requirement. We are in effect disarming ourselves.”
The United States is developing two hypersonic vehicles, the unpowered HTV-2, or Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2, and the X-51 Waverider, a scramjet powered high-speed vehicle.
A report by the Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center stated recently that Russia is building “a new class of hypersonic vehicle” that would “allow Russian strategic missiles to penetrate missile defense systems.”
A former commander of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces in Moscow said China’s hypersonic vehicle test was a milestone but that Beijing trails both Russia and the United States in the development of the arms.
“China has hardly surpassed the Americans and the Russians as it has just accomplished its first hypersonic missile test,” former Strategic Rocket Forces commander Col. Gen. Viktor Yesin told Interfax-AVN.
“History shows there are no miracles in the development of missile systems.”
“The designers have run into numerous problems and most of them have not been resolved so far.”