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Chinese test accelerates hypersonics weapons race with US

The US Navy Strategic Systems Programs and the US Army Hypersonic Program Office conducted High Operational Tempo testing for Hypersonics flight campaign. (US Navy)

China's recent ‘hypersonic' vehicle testing is pushing the development race with the US for such a weapon into higher gear at a time when the Pentagon is seeking to secure more budget funding to keep pace with the overall Chinese threat.

“It is an escalation,” Brent Sandler, senior fellow for naval warfare and advanced technology at the Heritage Foundation's Center for National Defense, told Janes.

Bryan Clark, senior fellow and director of the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology at Hudson Institute, told Janes , “This test does show that China may be further ahead than the US in operationalising this capability.”

“However, this is not a ‘Sputnik moment'. In some ways China did what the US has been able to do for years – put a vehicle in orbit around the Earth at least once,” he added.

Some officials may have made the event seem more ‘dramatic' to highlight the Chinese threat and better secure defence spending during the coming budgeting cycle, Clark said. However, he agreed that the Chinese tests are likely to accelerate the hypersonics competition between the two countries.

General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed on 27 October China's recent testing of the hypersonic system, calling the development “very concerning” during a broadcast interview on Bloomberg Television.

“What we saw was a very significant event of a test of a hypersonic weapon system,” Gen Milley said.

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