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. (link)
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.
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.