October 20, 2021 - 6:09 am

China's Hypersonic Missile

The financial Times reported that China has taken a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide missile in august that circled the globe before speeding towards its target, which it missed by about two dozen miles, demonstrating an advanced space capability that caught the US intelligence by surprise. Hypersonic missiles are five or more times the speed of sound. Chinese officials revoked the report and called it a space vehicle, not a missile. 

The hypersonic missile, in contrast, flies low in the atmosphere and can be repositioned in flight, making it difficult to calculate where it will land and therefore hard to intercept. Mastery of such a hypersonic glide system in a low orbit would enable China to evade US anti-ballistic missile defenses that are geared to intercept Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) traveling in an arched trajectory, looping into space before falling back to earth and donating above their intended targets.

The exact details on the technology used by China in this particular test are not known through media sources. But most of the hypersonic vehicles primarily use scramjet technology ( a category of engines designed to handle airflows of speeds in multiples of the speed of sound). It is important to note the unstoppable trend that China is narrowing the gap with the US in some key military technologies by continuously developing its economic and technological strength. The tensions between the US and China have risen as the Biden administration has taken a tough track on Beijing which has accused Washington of being overly hostile.

This test by China certainly needs to be watched closely by the world especially India considering relations with China in the recent past. Such capabilities also highlight the threat for our space assets along with the surface assets. India, too, is working on hypersonic technologies. As far as space assets are concerned, India has already proved its capabilities through the test of ASAT. China's increasing assertiveness must be taken with appropriate measures to maintain world order.