China’s government is working on a new hypersonic missile that will be accurate enough to target a moving vehicle while flying five times faster than the speed of sound, The Epoch Times reported.
A research team at the Chinese military’s PLA Rocket Force University of Engineering has said it was making “important progress” toward developing a heat-seeking missile capable of extreme accuracy at hypersonic speeds. The South China Morning Post reported on the development, quoting a paper published in the Chinese peer-reviewed journal Infrared and Laser Engineering.
The team, led by Yang Xiaogang, was reportedly given a deadline of 2025 to solve the issue of how to improve the accuracy of China’s burgeoning hypersonic program.
If accomplished, the ability to strike a passenger vehicle at hypersonic speed would be a feat of technological expertise in missile science. Because of their speed, hypersonic weapons have extremely limited maneuverability, according to The Epoch Times.
When China tested its orbital hypersonic weapon last July, it was regarded as a significant milestone, even though the missile landed approximately twenty-four miles from its intended target.
Yang’s team is working to improve the accuracy of such weapons by developing a new identification and tracking system that will combine data from motion detectors with data gathered by infrared seekers commonly used by heat-seeking missiles. The data combined from both systems allow for more precise tracking than traditional heat-seekers frame-by-frame tracking and a much more accurate rocket.
The Epoch Times states China has already demonstrated its capability to strike larger mobile targets such as an aircraft carrier. Still, hitting smaller moving targets, especially in densely populated regions, is much more difficult.
Then-Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Hyten said that the Pentagon’s runaway bureaucracy and risk-averse culture were hamstringing U.S. military development. He said the United States had only conducted nine hypersonic tests in the previous five years, while China’s government had conducted hundreds, reports Breaking Defense, a digital magazine reporting on defense industry.
“You don’t need to develop the kind of capabilities they’re developing for a minimum deterrence,” Hyten said. “The work they’re doing on hypersonics, the work to fill out the triad, the work to build both a fixed-base ICBM program and a mobile ICBM program at the same time, to put ballistic missiles on bombers, to put ballistic missiles on submarines — you know, when you look at that structure, that is not a minimum deterrence model.”
However, not all American military leaders are as worried about the role of hypersonic weapons.
During a January speech, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall downplayed the importance of such weapons to U.S. strategy, claiming that U.S. strategic needs differed from those of China.
“China has a set of targets, and I can easily understand why they would want to field hypersonic weapons in reasonable quantities,” Kendall said, according to The Epoch Times. “We don’t have the same target set that they’re worried about.”
Fears of a new arms race have pushed the United States into a rush to develop at least some new hypersonic capabilities.
According to Reuters, the U.S. Air Force successfully tested an air-launched hypersonic missile from a B-52 bomber off the coast of California in May. According to the Air Force, the test ensures that the U.S. military is maintaining its advantage.
“Our highly-skilled team made history on this first air-launched hypersonic weapon,” 419th Flight Test Squadron Commander, Lt. Col. Michael Jungquist told Fox News. “We’re doing everything we can to get this game-changing weapon to the warfighter as soon as possible.”