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US can't defend against new Chinese hypersonic missiles, official warns

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 18/10/2021 Rozina Sabur
Visual China Group - Yan Zehua/Visual China Group © Yan Zehua/Visual China Group Visual China Group - Yan Zehua/Visual China Group

America cannot defend against hypersonic missiles, a senior official warned,

The @FT reported that China tested a gliding fractional orbital bombardment (G-FOBS) system in August.

Did it actually happen? And, if it did, why does China want this technology and what are the implications?


— (((James Acton))) (@james_acton32) October 18, 2021 ">after China allegedly tested new weaponry

in an accelerating global arms race. 

Robert Wood, America's disarmament ambassador, said Washington was "very concerned" after a report suggested Beijing had secretly tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that went around the globe in August.

Downing Street said the British Government was also "closely monitoring" the situation. 

Hypersonic missiles, like traditional ballistic missiles, can fly more than five times the speed of sound but are more manoeuvrable, making them harder to track. 

US intelligence officials were alarmed by the launch because they had been unaware of Beijing's rapid progress in the area, according to the Financial Times which first reported on the test. 

Ambassador Wood said the US had "held back" from pursuing military applications for hypersonic technology but with China and Russia actively pursuing its use "we are just having to respond in kind". 

He admitted that at present: "We just don't know how we can defend against that type of technology, neither does China or Russia". 

"If you're a country that's the target of that, you're going to want to figure out a way to defend yourself from that," he told reporters in Geneva. 

"And so we start looking at what other applications and defensive applications, can you bring to hypersonic technology - and so that continues to accelerate the arms race."

Video: China has reportedly tested hypersonic missile (TODAY)


Beijing on Monday denied that it was testing a weapons system, saying the launch involved a new spacecraft. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said it was of "great significance for reducing the use-cost of spacecraft and could provide a convenient and affordable way to make a round trip for mankind's peaceful use of space". 

Boris Johnson's spokesman said: "We are closely monitoring the situation and as ever are clear that all states with nuclear capability must act responsibly within the international system. 

"We have seen what has been reported. We will keep a close watch on this development but it is important that those with these capabilities behave responsibly." 

Asked if the Government accepted Beijing's explanation, the Prime Minister's spokesman said: "At this stage I am not able to pass judgement on that without further information." 

The new hypersonic glide vehicle was reportedly launched with a 'Long March' rocket, seen here carrying Chang'e-5 probe - Artyom Ivanov/TASS via Getty © Provided by The Telegraph The new hypersonic glide vehicle was reportedly launched with a 'Long March' rocket, seen here carrying Chang'e-5 probe - Artyom Ivanov/TASS via Getty

It is not the first such test China has conducted. In 2018, in a televised launch, Beijing sent its nuclear-capable hypersonic missile Xingkong-2 into space on a multi-stage rocket.

The weapon reportedly travelled at six times the speed of sound in what Beijing called a "huge success".

Washington is already working on adding hypersonic missiles to its arsenal.

Darpa, the US army's scientific wing, recently announced successful tests of what it called a HAWC missile (Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept). The missile uses oxygen in the atmosphere as part of its fuel.

It is also developing a hypersonic glider, known as ARRW (pronounced "arrow"), but its first major test in April ended in failure.

Russia recently launched a hypersonic missile, the Zircon, from a submarine, and since late 2019 has had the hypersonic nuclear-capable Avangard missiles in service.

According to the Financial Times, the Chinese military launched a rocket carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle into space, which flew around the globe through low-orbit space before returning to Earth in August. 

The missile reportedly missed its target by about two dozen miles, but revealed China's has progressed much further than US officials had realised. “

We have no idea how they did this,” according to one source quoted by the newspaper. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to comment on the missile launch on Monday but stressed that the US had made clear to China its concern about its military development.

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