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Weapons: China reportedly tested hypersonic missile in orbit


According to the British newspaper “Financial Times”, Beijing launched a nuclear-capable missile in August that circled the Earth in low orbit before descending towards its target.


China has tested a new space capability with an orbiting hypersonic missile, the “Financial Times” reported on Saturday.

The article in the British business and finance daily, citing several sources with knowledge of the test, indicates that Beijing launched a nuclear-capable missile in August that circled the Earth in low orbit before descending towards its failed target. More than 32 kilometers according to three sources.

FT sources said the hypersonic glider was carried by a Long March rocket, the launches of which are generally announced, while the August test was kept secret. China’s progress on hypersonic weapons “took US intelligence by surprise,” according to the article.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said he would not comment on the details of the article, but added: “We have made clear our concerns about the military development that China continues to pursue, which only increases tensions in the region and beyond. This is one of the reasons we see China as our main stimulus challenge. “

Five times the speed of sound

In addition to Beijing, the United States, Russia and at least five other countries are working on hypersonic technology. Hypersonic missiles, like traditional ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear weapons, can fly at more than five times the speed of sound.

Ballistic missiles fly high in space in an arc to hit their target, while a hypersonic missile takes a low trajectory in the atmosphere, potentially hitting its target faster.

Importantly, a hypersonic missile is maneuverable (like a much slower, often subsonic, cruise missile), making it more difficult to track and counter. Countries like the United States have developed systems designed to defend against cruise and ballistic missiles, but the ability to track and shoot down a hypersonic missile is unknown.

Rising tensions between the United States and China

China has developed the technology in an offensive manner, deeming it crucial to defend against American advances in hypersonic and other technologies, according to a recent report by the United States Congressional Research Service (CRS).

The reported test comes as tensions between the United States and China have escalated and Beijing has stepped up military activities near Taiwan, the Washington-aligned autonomous democracy that China views as a province awaiting reunification. The Pentagon did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment on the “Financial Times” article.