China claims to have successfully tested a new hypersonic missile that would be capable of penetrating any missile defense system in the world. The Starry Sky-2, which is an experimental design known as “waverider,” rides the shock waves generated during flight. The missile could one day carry conventional and or nuclear warheads undetected through US missile defense shields.
According to the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA), an aerodynamic research institution in Beijing and part of the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC), conducted the hypersonic missile test in northwestern China last Friday.
The CAAA released a statement issued on Monday, indicating the Starry Sky-2 was carried into space by a solid-propellant rocket before separating.
CAAA images of the rocket launching the Starry Sky-2 to the upper atmosphere (Source/WeChat)
#China has successfully tested its new aircraft, the Starry Sky-2, which can even be used to carry nuclear missiles at a speed never seen before. Recently China & #Russia showed the world their new toys. For whom they display it? What intention is behind that? #defense #Military pic.twitter.com/XqA2AsleZn
— Cristina Font 柯伊娜 (@cfontharo) August 7, 2018
After separation, it descended to lower altitudes as it autonomously conducted extreme turning manoeuvers, reaching Mach 5.5 for more than 400 seconds, and reached a top speed of Mach 6, or 7,344km/h (4,563mph), the CAAA WeChat statement said.
The test was deemed a “complete success,” stated CAAA, which posted a series of behind the scenes images of the experiment on social media. “The Starry Sky-2 flight test project was strongly innovative and technically difficult, confronting a number of cutting-edge international technical challenges.”
However, the CAAA did not mention what the intended purpose of the missile would be used for, other than commenting on how hypersonic technologies could further China’s aerospace industry.
Although, the missile is still in the development stage and probably a few years out from series production, waveriders could be used to carry conventional and or nuclear warheads capable of penetrating the world’s most advanced anti-missile defense systems.
Earlier this year, Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the US is extremely vulnerable to future attack via hypersonic missiles.
“The first, most important message I want to deliver today is that the forces under my command are fully ready to deter our adversaries and respond decisively, should deterrence ever fail. We are ready for all threats. No one should doubt this,” Gen. Hyten said in his opening statement.
However, in a follow-on conversation with Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, Hyten cautioned:
“we [US] don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon [hypersonic missiles] against us.”
Hyten suggested the US is powerless against hypersonic weapon threats and has to rely on nuclear deterrence.
Hyten added, “so our response would be our deterrent force which would be the triad and the nuclear capabilities that we have to respond to such a threat.”
In mid-April, Lockheed Martin announced that it had won a $928 million contract to develop a hypersonic missile for the Air Force to counter Chinese and Russian missile defense systems.
During the recent discussion at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) in Washington, D.C., Gen. Paul Selva, vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said China has yet to “mass deploy hypersonics or long-range [tactical] ballistic missiles,” however, “they are able now to deploy those capabilities at a large scale” if they decide to move in that direction, he added.
Gen. Selva then dropped a bombshell indicating the Pentagon is behind in the demonstration of hypersonic technologies, but he did mention that the Pentagon still holds an advantage when it comes to sensor and sensor-integration technologies.
“If we just sit back and don’t react we will lose our technological superiority” over China, Selva said.
Beijing-based military analyst Zhou Chenming told the South China Morning Post that Starry Sky-2 would be used for carrying conventional warheads rather than nuclear ones, adding that such a capability was not in the immediate future.
“I think there are still three to five years before this technology can be weaponized,” he said. “As well as being fitted to missiles, it may also have other military applications, which are still being explored.”
The Starry Sky-2 is not China’s first rodeo operating in the hypersonic space — it has been testing hypersonic missiles since 2014, but the latest test is the first to make use of waverider technology.
Mike Griffin, a former Nasa administrator and now the Pentagon’s defense undersecretary for research and engineering, warned earlier this year that China had built “a pretty mature system” for a hypersonic missile to strike from thousands of miles away.
To sum up, this is it – the dying American empire is behind the hypersonic technology curve, as it may suggest: The US could lose its military technological superiority to China sometime in the mid/late 2020s, if it does not properly allocate enough investments into hypersonic technologies.
We then ask the question: What comes next if Washington’s power slips in the Pacific? Well, you guessed it… War.