China is building a wind tunnel for hypersonic tests that would permit development of aerial vehicles capable of travelling at speeds up to Mach 25, according to reports published in state media.
The Xinhua News Agency and the Global Times newspaper quote from an interview given on China Central Television (CCTV) by Han Guilai, a research engineer with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Key Laboratory of High-Temperature Gas Dynamics, in which he stated that the new wind tunnel would enable flight simulation at speeds between Mach 10 and 25.
CCTV footage of the new tunnel, which is expected to be ready for use in 2020, shows a test vehicle being mounted in a section that seems to be approximately 2.5-3.0 m in diameter, while other imagery shows interchangeable sections of the tunnel in different sizes.
China currently has a test facility that enables development of vehicles intended to reach speeds in the range of Mach 5 to 9. Xinhua reported that existing facilities have been used to simulate an aircraft that would be capable of transporting people and cargo from Beijing to New York in less than two hours.
Although the recent media reports highlight research relating to hypersonic aircraft and spaceplanes, the principal use of the wind tunnels is likely to be the development of hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) and/or hypersonic cruise weapon technology. As Jane’s reported on 6 March, such hypersonic technologies are becoming a key area for development in the United States, where there is evident concern that China may take the lead in fielding such weapons.
US Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin observed that China has done 20 times as many hypersonic tests as the United States and was quoted as saying that “responding to that would be my highest technical priority”.
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