Pentagon officials ‘remain baffled by Chinese hypersonic missile technology’

A hypersonic weapon test carried out by China in July featured a missile fired at five times the speed of sound – a technological feat which no other country has demonstrated, according to US intelligence.  

The hypersonic glide vehicle – a spacecraft with the ability to carry a nuclear warhead – fired a missile mid-flight over the South China Sea, catching Pentagon scientists unawares.

Experts at Darpa – the Pentagon’s advanced research agency – are apparently still baffled at how China was able to defy the constraints of physics to fire a weapon from the vehicle travelling at hypersonic speed, the Financial Times reports.

Analysts are also attempting to piece together the purpose of the missile, which was fired with no obvious target before landing into the sea. 

Both Russia and the US have explored hypersonic weapons in recent years, but experts say China’s firing of countermeasures is proof that Beijing’s technology is more advanced than either the Kremlin or the Pentagon.

The White House has reiterated concerns about the July 27 test. A National Security Council spokesman said: ‘This development is concerning to us as it should be to all who seek peace and stability in the region and beyond.

‘This also builds on our concern about many military capabilities that the People’s Republic of China continues to pursue.’  

The hypersonic glide vehicle launched into space on an ‘orbital bombardment system’ rocket with the ability to fly over the South Pole, beyond the reach of US missile defences which are aimed against ballistic missiles heading from the North Pole.

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