- - Monday, January 13, 2014

China’s military last week conducted the first flight test of a new ultra-high speed missile vehicle aimed at delivering warheads through U.S. missile defenses, Pentagon officials said.

The test of the new hypersonic glide vehicle was carried out Jan. 9 and the experimental weapon is being dubbed the WU-14 by the Pentagon, said officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The hypersonic vehicle represents a major step forward in China’s secretive strategic nuclear and conventional military and missile programs.


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The new hypersonic vehicle was detected traveling at extremely high speeds during the flight test over China, said officials who discussed some details of the test.

The hypersonic craft appears designed to be launched atop one of China’s intercontinental ballistic missiles, and then glides and maneuvers at speeds of up to 10 times the speed of sound from near space en route to its target, the officials said.

A Pentagon spokesman confirmed the test but declined to provide details.


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“We routinely monitor foreign defense activities and we are aware of this test,” Marine Corps Lt. Col. Jeffrey Pool, the spokesman, told the Washington Free Beacon.

“However, we don’t comment on our intelligence or assessments of foreign weapon systems,” Pool said in a statement. “We encourage greater transparency [by the People’s Republic of China] regarding their defense investments and objectives to avoid miscalculation,” he added.

The United States, Russia, and China are all engaged in a hypersonic arms race. All three nations are developing high-speed aerospace vehicles. India is also developing a hypersonic variant of its BrahMos cruise missile.

Hypersonic weapons use cutting edge technology for flying and maneuvering at ultra-high speeds in space and air. Future weapons will include powered and unpowered hypersonic vehicles fired from the last stages of ICBMs and submarine missiles, and from the bomb-bays of strategic bombers. Hypersonic cruise missiles and surveillance drones also are expected.

The military advantages of hypersonic craft include precise targeting, very rapid delivery of weapons, and greater survivability against missile and space defenses.

Hypersonic speed is between 3,840 miles per hour and 7,680 miles per hour, also known as Mach 5 to Mach 10.

China military affairs specialists said the hypersonic vehicle test is a significant milestone and appears to be part of China’s development of asymmetric warfare weaponry that Beijing calls “assassin’s mace” weapons—high-technology arms that would assist China’s overall weaker military forces to defeat the more technologically advanced U.S. military.

Mark Stokes, a former U.S. Air Force officer and specialist on China’s strategic weapons systems, said China is working on two hypersonic flight vehicle programs that are long-range strategic arms. Last week’s test appears to be a new post-boost vehicle designed to launch from a missile.

China is also developing a hypersonic, scramjet-powered vehicle that can take off independently or be launched from a bomber.

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