China has reportedly launched a nuclear-capable, faster-than-sound missile around the globe, leaving American officials stunned at the advancement of the technology.
The incident, which was reported by the Financial Times, reportedly occurred in August, when a Chinese hypersonic glide vehicle entered low-earth orbit in space, encircled the entire circumference of the globe, and landed within about two dozen miles of its target.
JUST IN – China tested a nuclear capable hypersonic gliding vehicle that traveled around the globe through low orbit in space before cruising to the target. US intelligence and military officials stunned.https://t.co/HuB5kOHElq
— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) October 16, 2021
“The test showed that China had made astounding progress on hypersonic weapons and was far more advanced than US officials realized,” the FT report said.
However, China contests the claim that this launch was a weapon, insisting it was instead a spacecraft.
“According to my understanding, this test is a routine spacecraft test, used to test a reusable spacecraft technology,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told journalists.
China has denied a report it had recently launched a hypersonic missile, saying it tested a spacecraft to trial reusable technologies. https://t.co/sI1kAVH4GC
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) October 18, 2021
Hypersonic missile technology is uniquely difficult to defend against, as they can fly towards their target at over 5 times the speed of sound – around 6,200 kilometres per hour at low altitude. This is different to a ballistic missile, which enters space and then returns to earth on a steep trajectory towards its target, which potentially takes longer.
It’s unclear whether Western countries have the technology to defend against hypersonic weapons.
At a 2019 military parade, China showcased its newly developed weaponry, including a hypersonic missile called the DF-17.The US and Russia are also in the process of developing such missiles, and last month North Korea claimed to have test-fired such a weapon that was in the process of being developed.