China overtakes US in hypersonic arms race

China overtakes US in hypersonic arms race – US NAVY/AFP

The race to develop hypersonic weapons appears to have reached a new stage with a recent Chinese test, which demonstrates its unexpected overtaking of the United States in this field of strategic competition between the powers.

China tested a hypersonic glider in August – capable of reaching speeds in excess of 6,000 km/h – that orbited the Earth before reaching its target, which missed by about 30 kilometers.

That test shot, revealed in October by the Financial Times and confirmed by the Pentagon, forced the US military to recognize that China’s technological performance took them by surprise.

The head of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, compared this test to the launch in 1957 by the then USSR of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, which marked the beginning of the space race.

According to new revelations published on Sunday, the Chinese hypersonic device fired during its career a projectile that fell into the sea, surprising the United States again.

“It appears that the Chinese have managed to control these effects of thermal and aerodynamic shock at hypersonic speed”, which requires “huge calculation skills”, explains Joseph Henrotin, strategy researcher and editor-in-chief of the specialized journal DSI.

“These recent tests represent a huge technological leap for China, even as the United States remains far ahead in terms of overall military technology,” adds Niklas Swanström, China expert and director of the Stockholm Institute for Security and Development.

– Hypersonic wind tunnel –

The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), which recently equipped itself with a hypersonic wind tunnel, plans to launch a new facility next year to simulate flights at speeds up to 30 times faster than sound, according to Chinese state media.

The United States, on the other hand, does not have a hypersonic weapon in its arsenal, although they are working towards it.

Darpa, the Pentagon agency, has recently successfully tested its HAWC hypersonic missile, which uses oxygen from the atmosphere for its combustion.

The Pentagon has also developed a hypersonic glider called the ARRW, but its first full-scale test failed in April.

Other powers, such as Russia, also have hypersonic weapons or are trying to equip themselves with them, such as France.

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