The future of warfare is here and China is taking mighty steps with its development of state-of-the-art weaponry that may be way ahead of current technology, American intelligence sources revealed.
Reports suggested that China carried out the first flight tests of a new kind of ballistic missile with a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) shortly after President Xi Jinping cemented his hold on power during the Communist Party’s 19th Party Congress in October.
China’s Dong Feng -17 (DF-17) reportedly underwent its first flight tests on Nov. 1 and 15, a U.S. government source told the Diplomat. There have reportedly been multiple test flights of hypersonic glide vehicles since 2013 using state-of-the-art wind tunnels in mainland China, but the details have been kept top secret.
Equipped with a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) reportedly capable of reaching 12,360 kilometers per hour (10 times the speed of sound), the DF-17 is now being touted as the world’s first modern operational hypersonic weapon system.
“The missile is explicitly designed for operational HGV implementation and not as a test bed. The first HGV test in the world using a system intended to be fielded operationally,” a source privy to a recent intelligence assessments on the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) was quoted as saying.
During the tests conducted in the Jiuquan Space Launcher Center in Inner Mongolia, the missile’s payload flew about 870 miles (1,400 kilometers) in 11 minutes with the HGV. It reportedly made impact “within meters” of its intended target in Xinjiang Province.
U.S. intelligence agencies predicted that it may finally enter service in 2020 with an improved range of between 1,800 and 2,500 kilometers (1,118 and 1,553 miles).
Aside from being able to guide itself toward its target, the DF-17 is engineered to carry nuclear or any type of warhead at such incredible speed that it reportedly renders current missile defense systems obsolete.
According to nonprofit global policy think tank RAND Corporation, such missiles are an advanced class of weaponry that are “capable both of maneuvering and of flying faster than 5000 kilometers per hour, which would enable such missiles to penetrate most missile defenses and to further compress the timelines for response by a nation under attack.”
HGVs are also difficult to defend against since they fly lower than the altitude which existing ballistic missile defense radars typically scan as of now. While the DF-17 may not be completely indefensible for a military super-power such as the United States, a less technologically advanced opponent will have some reasons for concern. Other countries currently working on hypersonic weapons are the U.S. and Russia.
Feature image via YouTube / CCTV