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China’s wave-riding hypersonic weapon

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CNN, Quartz, and the Global Times (in Chinese) are reporting that China claims to have successfully tested its first hypersonic missile, which it’s calling a “wave-riding hypersonic weapon” (乘波体高超音速武器 chéngbōtǐ gāochāoyīnsù wǔqì). The missile could potentially carry multiple nuclear warheads.

  • “The China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA), based in Beijing and part of the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, conducted the first test of the ‘Starry Sky-2’ 星空2号 xīngkōng èrhào aircraft last Friday,” says CNN. CAAA’s own statement about the test is here (in Chinese).
  • The Starry Sky 2 was shot into near space using a conventional solid-propellant rocket. After reaching a predetermined altitude, the weapon end of the rocket split off and flew back to down to Earth.
  • The missile reached speeds of Mach 6 — six times the speed of sound, or 4,563 miles per hour (7,344 kilometers per hour), “riding” on the shock waves caused by its own hypersonic flight. At this speed, it would take half an hour to go from Beijing to New York.
  • The weapon displayed a “high degree of structural strength and maneuverability at speeds of Mach 5-23,” and would be “difficult to intercept,” according to sources cited by the Global Times.
  • China’s new weapon “would likely make a mockery of U.S. missile defense systems in battle,” according to Quartz. CNN says the development “could intensify pressure on the US military.”
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Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.

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