China has conducted a secret test of a hypersonic missile orbiting the Earth, the Financial Times reported on Saturday.
The British Business newspaper quoted several sources who had knowledge of the test. Beijing launched a missile in August that flew into low Earth orbit before landing on the target, but missed it by 20 miles, according to three sources.
The sources reported that the projectile carried a Long March missile. Releases of these launchers are generally advertised, but the August test has been kept under wraps. The newspaper said that China’s progress in the field of hypersonic weapons “surprised US intelligence”.
Five times faster than sound
In addition to Beijing, the United States and Russia, North Korea And at least five other countries have hypersonic technology. Hypersonic missiles, which can carry nuclear warheads like ballistic missiles, can fly five times faster than sound. What’s more, like much slower cruise missiles, they are highly maneuverable, making them difficult to track and stop.
Countries like the United States have developed systems to defend themselves against ballistic and cruise missiles, but they do not yet have the ability to detect and shoot down a hypersonic missile.
China sees the development of ultrasonic technology as crucial to defending itself against US advances in this field, according to a recent report from the US Parliament’s Research Institute (CRS).
The test comes at a time when tensions between China and the United States are rising and Beijing is ramping up its military activities near Taiwan. Taiwan separated from mainland China in 1949, is de facto independent and enjoys the support of the United States. China still considers the island a breakaway province.
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