China tested nuclear-capable, hypersonic space weapon - FT

The Chinese military's hypersonic capabilities are "far more advanced than US officials realized."

 Military vehicles carrying hypersonic missiles DF-17 travel past Tiananmen Square during the military parade marking the 70th founding anniversary of People's Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China October 1, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/JASON LEE)
Military vehicles carrying hypersonic missiles DF-17 travel past Tiananmen Square during the military parade marking the 70th founding anniversary of People's Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China October 1, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/JASON LEE)

China made significant strides in space weapons capabilities in August as they secretly tested an advanced nuclear-capable hypersonic missile, the Financial Times reported on Saturday night.

The report said the Chinese military launched a rocket carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle that flew through low-orbit space, circling the globe before cruising toward its target, which it missed by about 25 miles.

The new missile reportedly caught the US by surprise, with a source telling FT that China’s hypersonic capabilities are “far more advanced than US officials realized.”

China’s Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment from Reuters on Sunday.

The hypersonic weapons, also tested by the US and Russia, include glide vehicles that fly at five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) – approximately one mile per minute – and are launched into space on a rocket, orbiting the Earth under their own momentum.

 The Pentagon logo is seen behind the podium in the briefing room at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 8, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/AL DRAGO/FILE PHOTO) The Pentagon logo is seen behind the podium in the briefing room at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 8, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/AL DRAGO/FILE PHOTO)

According to an expert on Chinese nuclear weapons policy, the newly tested weapon, armed with a nuclear warhead, will help China “negate US defense systems that are designed to destroy incoming ballistic missiles,” FT said.

America’s defense systems, which are focused on the North Pole, could be completely disregarded as the new weapon could potentially fly over the South Pole, according to FT.

“We have made clear our concerns about the military capabilities China continues to pursue: capabilities that only increase tensions in the region and beyond,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

The US and Russia are also developing hypersonic missiles, and North Korea said last month that it had test-fired a newly developed one.

At a 2019 parade, China showcased advancing weaponry including its hypersonic missile, known as the DF-17.

Ballistic missiles fly into outer space before returning on steep trajectories at higher speeds. Hypersonic weapons are difficult to defend against because they fly toward targets at lower altitudes but can achieve more than five times the speed of sound, or about 6,200 kph (3,850 mph).