Concept art of China's hypersonic missile. (Internet photo)
Officials from the Pentagon told the Washington Freedom Beacon that the People's Liberation Army has tested its newly developed hypersonic missile, dubbed the WU-14, on Jan. 9 in an unknown region of China.
The news and commentary site reported that the experimental weapon represents a major step forward in China's secretive strategic nuclear and conventional military and missile programs. The new hypersonic craft "appears to be launched atop one of China's intercontinental ballistic missiles, then glides and maneuvers at speeds of up to 10 times the speed of sound from near space en route to its target," the report said, citing the officials.
Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Jeffrey Pool said, "We routinely monitor foreign defense activities and we are aware of this test...However, we don't comment on our intelligence or assessments of foreign weapon systems. We encourage greater transparency regarding their defense investments and objectives to avoid miscalculation."
Meanwhile, the United States, China and Russia are all engaged in a hypersonic arms race, the Washington Freedom Beacon said.
Hypersonic speed is between 3,840 miles per hour and 7,680 miles per hour, also known as Mach 5 to Mach 10. The report said that hypersonic weapons use cutting edge technology for flying and maneuvering at ultra-high speeds in space and air. It can be fired from the last stages of intercontinental ballistic missile or submarine-launched ballistic missiles. China is also developing a hypersonic, scramjet-powered vehicle that can take off independently or be launched from a bomber.
Mark Stokes, a retired US Air Force officer and analyst working for the Washington-based 2049 Institute said that the development of China's hypersonic weapon has become a great challenge to the US missile defense. Regarding the test, US military analyst Richard Fisher said "The Chinese are actively seeking global military power to challenge the United States, and it is not yet in any mood to talk, or engage in arms control, about it."