Filed Under: International

China’s new hypersonic missile can zoom faster than a mile per second

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The U.S. military successfully tested hypersonic weapon component prototypes in October, according to the Pentagon. A day later, the program reportedly suffered a setback. The tests came as President Joe Biden expressed his own concern regarding suspected hypersonic missiles from China. General Mark Milley voiced concern, as well.

“I don’t know if it’s quite a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to that,” Milley said on Bloomberg Television. “It has all of our attention.”

A hypersonic missile is a vehicle that moves at five times the speed of sound–faster than a mile per second. Missile defense experts said hypersonic missiles are generally faster than intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Hypersonic missiles also travel lower in the atmosphere. These factors significantly shorten the travel time from launch to impact.

“The go-to scenario for ICBM is about 25 to 30 minutes from launch,” RAND Corporation associate engineer Fabian Villalobos said. “If we’re talking about a hypersonic system, that chain of events could be shortened down to below 10 minutes.”

HARMLESS SPACECRAFT OR A HYPERSONIC MISSILE?

A FINANCIAL TIMES REPORT SAYS CHINA TESTED ITS VERY OWN HYPERSONIC MISSILE BACK IN AUGUST, AND WHILE CHINESE OFFICIALS INSIST IT WAS ACTUALLY A ROUTINE SPACECRAFT TEST, OFFICIALS IN THE US AREN’T CONVINCED.

LLOYD AUSTIN: WHAT I CAN TELL YOU IS THAT WE WATCH CLOSELY (THE) CHINESE DEVELOPMENT OF ARMAMENT AND ADVANCED CAPABILITIES IN SYSTEMS THAT WILL ONLY INCREASE TENSIONS IN THE REGION.

LONGWORTH: SO, WHAT IS THIS WEAPON THAT HAS EVERYBODY SO TENSE? WHAT, EXACTLY, IS A HYPERSONIC MISSILE?

LET’S GET THIS STRAIGHT.

HYPERSONIC MISSILES ARE VEHICLES THAT MOVE AT five TIMES THE SPEED OF SOUND.

THAT’S FASTER THAN A MILE A SECOND!

CHECK OUT HOW THEY STACK UP AGAINST THE MORE COMMONLY HELD BALLISTIC MISSILES–OR ICBMS.

MISSILE DEFENSE EXPERTS SAY HYPERSONIC MISSILES ARE GENERALLY FASTER, TRAVELING LOWER, IN THE ATMOSPHERE — SIGNIFICANTLY CUTTING THE TIME FROM LAUNCH TO IMPACT.

FABIAN VILLALOBOS: THE GO-TO SCENARIO FOR ICBM IS ABOUT 25 TO 30 MINUTES FROM LAUNCH. IF WE’RE TALKING ABOUT A HYPERSONIC SYSTEM, THAT CHAIN OF EVENTS COULD BE SHORTENED DOWN TO BELOW 10 MINUTES.

LONGWORTH: NOT A WHOLE LOTTA TIME FOR ANOTHER COUNTRY TO REACT.

ANOTHER DIFFERENCE – HYPERSONIC MISSILES CAN BE MANEUVERED MID-AIR–MAKING THEM WAY TOUGHER TO DEFEND AGAINST.

ICBMS HAVE A SET PATH–A HIGHER, LONGER ARC WITH A PREDICTABLE TARGET—EASIER TO DEFEND AGAINST.

NOW, THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF HYPERSONIC VEHICLES: *GLIDE* AND *CRUISE* SYSTEMS.

GLIDE VEHICLES ARE SIMPLER AND THE TECHNOLOGY’S BEEN AROUND FOR DECADES.

BUT THEY NEED TO BE BOOSTED INTO THE AIR WITH A ROCKET, THEN RELEASED TO…GLIDE TOWARD THEIR TARGET.

THAT’S WHAT CHINA ALLEGEDLY TESTED IN AUGUST.

CRUISE VEHICLES PROPEL THEMSELVES, BUT THEY’RE MORE CHALLENGING TO BUILD BECAUSE THEY REQUIRE THESE THINGS CALLED SCRAMJET ENGINES.

BRUCE MCCLINTOCK: ONE REPORT SAYS THAT IT TOOK THE UNITED STATES CLOSE TO 50 YEARS TO SUCCESSFULLY TEST A SCRAMJET ENGINE.

SO CLEARLY, HERE IN THE US, WE’VE TESTED HYPERSONIC TECH.

WE KNOW RUSSIA’S DONE IT, AND, REPORTEDLY, SO HAS NORTH KOREA.

NOW, CHINA COULD MAKE THAT LIST, TOO.

MIKE WALTZ: THIS IS A SPUTNIK MOMENT. THE CHINESE COMMUNIST PARTY IS IN AN ARMS RACE WITH THE UNITED STATES.

LONGWORTH: U.S. OFFICIALS SAY THEY WELCOME COMPETITION, BUT NOT CONFLICT WHEN IT COMES TO THIS TECHNOLOGY.

AUSTIN: YOU’VE HEARD ME SAYING A NUMBER OF TIMES THAT CHINA IS MY PACING CHALLENGE AND WE ARE GOING TO REMAIN FOCUSED ON THAT.

LONGWORTH: SO WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT HYPERSONIC MISSILES? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS AND DON’T FORGET TO HIT THE STRAIGHT ARROW BIAS METER.

The U.S. military successfully tested hypersonic weapon component prototypes in October, according to the Pentagon. A day later, the program reportedly suffered a setback. The tests came as President Joe Biden expressed his own concern regarding suspected hypersonic missiles from China. General Mark Milley voiced concern, as well.

“I don’t know if it’s quite a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to that,” Milley said on Bloomberg Television. “It has all of our attention.”

A hypersonic missile is a vehicle that moves at five times the speed of sound–faster than a mile per second. Missile defense experts said hypersonic missiles are generally faster than intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Hypersonic missiles also travel lower in the atmosphere. These factors significantly shorten the travel time from launch to impact.

“The go-to scenario for ICBM is about 25 to 30 minutes from launch,” RAND Corporation associate engineer Fabian Villalobos said. “If we’re talking about a hypersonic system, that chain of events could be shortened down to below 10 minutes.”

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