China Conducts Fifth Test of Hypersonic Glide Vehicle


Maneuvering missile takes evasive actions

China this week carried out another test of a new high-tech hypersonic glide vehicle, an ultra high-speed missile designed to deliver nuclear weapons and avoid defenses.

The latest test of what the Pentagon calls the Wu-14 hypersonic glide vehicle was carried out from the Wuzhai missile test range in central China. The test was judged successful, according to defense officials familiar with details of the event.

Additionally, officials said the glide vehicle, which travels along the edge of the earth’s atmosphere, demonstrated a new capability: evasive actions.

Current U.S. defenses are designed to track missiles that travel in predictable flight paths and are unable to counter maneuvering warheads and glide vehicles.

The latest Wu-14 test took place Wednesday.

It was the fifth test of the glide vehicle and the second since June.

The weapon is launched as the last stage of a missile that reaches speeds of around Mach 10, or 10 times the speed of sound—around 7,680 miles per hour.

Military analysts said the Chinese test schedule indicates that China may be close to deploying the high priority weapon.

A defense official, however, said the Wu-14 is viewed as a serious emerging strategic threat that could complicate U.S. nuclear deterrent efforts.

“At a minimum this latest test indicates China is likely succeeding in achieving a key design objective: building a warhead capable of withstanding the very high stress of hypersonic maneuvering,” said Rick Fisher, a China military expert. “It is likely that the test vehicle will form the basis for a missile launched weapon.”

“The advent of a Chinese hypersonic weapon may pose the greatest early threat to large U.S. Navy ships,” said Fisher, a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center. “The best prospect for a defensive response would be to greatly accelerate railgun development.”

Lora Saalman, an expert on hypersonic technology and former research associate at Carnegie-Tsinghua in Beijing, said the two most recent Wu-14 flights coming within two months are “unprecedented in terms of pace and frequency,” and suggest “a form of qualitative arms racing vis-a-vis the United States.”
“If the intent is for the Wu-14 to be a longer-range system for delivering conventional payloads, then it is likely an effort to extend the range and flexibility of China’s [anti-access, area denial] capabilities beyond that of the DF-21D missile,” she said.
“If this conventional system is mounted to reach an intercontinental range, then it could represent an effort to catch up with or even beat the United States to the punch on its own Conventional Prompt Global Strike aspirations,” Saalman added.
A nuclear-armed Wu-14 is likely intended to defeat U.S. missile defenses, Saalman said. “The difficulty is that each of these eventualities and aims are not necessarily mutually independent, nor are they distinguishable without more technical details on the most recent test,” she said.

Full article: China Conducts Fifth Test of Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (Washington Free Beacon)

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