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China Makes Hypersonic Missile Breakthrough as US Lags Behind


Nov 4, 2011
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China Makes Hypersonic Missile Breakthrough as US Lags Behind​

Oct 24, 2023 at 6:19 AM EDT

Chinese scientists have tested a new technology that could put the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) hypersonic missile technology well ahead of the U.S. Army's current technology.

Chinese scientists have developed a special surface material for the "waverider" aircraft, which has Beijing ahead of the U.S., according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Hypersonic missiles are weapons that can travel at a speed greater than the speed of sound at a range between Mach 5 and 10.

The material was developed by scientists at the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA) in Beijing and was tested recently. The thin surface material can quickly absorb heat, which was applied to the "waverider" aircraft during the test. Ai Bangcheng, deputy director of the CAAA, described the test as a "complete success" without revealing the time or location of the test.

The new thermal protection technology developed by Chinese scientists can unleash the age of reusable hypersonic missiles, vehicles and aircraft with "longer range and faster speed," marking a breakthrough in existing technology.

Ai and his team of scientists have said that the hypersonic technology race has moved to a new stage as the technology can open up new "opportunities."

The new technology has implications far beyond the missile technology. The thermal material can support the development of fast aircraft traveling at a hypersonic speed. The hypersonic technology developed by Beijing scientists has the potential to usher the world into a new era of stealth military aircraft that can conduct operations around the world within an hour or two.

The U.S. has lagged behind China in its hypersonic missile program after multiple delays in testing and cost overruns.

The Congressional Budget Office has recently expressed concern about lagging behind China in developing thermal protection technology for missiles traveling at hypersonic speed.

"The fundamental remaining challenge includes managing the extreme heat that hypersonic missiles are exposed to by traveling at high speeds in the atmosphere for most of their flight," said the January report by the U.S. Congressional Budget Office to politicians.

On October 12, the U.S. Air Force conducted an operational test of a new prototype hypersonic missile developed by Lockheed Martin but withheld the details about the objectives achieved or the insights gained from the test.

A previous hypersonic test was declared "failed" by the U.S. Air Force.

The same missile, also known as Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), failed during a test in March. After the failed test, the U.S. Air Force floated the idea of dropping the program to purchase Lockheed Martin-developed hypersonic missiles. However, the U.S. Air Force has said the decision to acquire Lockheed Martin will be "event-driven" and depend upon the launch's success.

The Chinese team is keeping the knowledge of how its scientists managed the breakthrough a secret. In 2021, China flew hypersonic vehicles around the globe, described by the U.S. military as a technology that "defied the laws of physics."


China missile edge over U.S. puts Japan at risk of threats: analyst​

CSBA's Yoshihara sees Middle East conflict drawing American attention from Asia

Toshi Yoshihara is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington. (Photo by Masahiro Okoshi)

MASAHIRO OKOSHI, Nikkei Washington bureau chiefOctober 24, 2023 21:42 JST

WASHINGTON -- China's advantage over the U.S. in theater-range missiles in Asia could enable it to "intimidate" frontline states like Japan during a crisis over Taiwan, according to an expert specializing in China's military strategy.

In an interview with Nikkei, Toshi Yoshihara, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said that Washington has "few symmetrical or in-kind options" to match the rapid growth in Beijing's intermediate-range arsenal described in the Pentagon's recent report on China's nuclear buildup.

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