Beijing’s next super weapon?
In November, China tested what may become the world’s first operational hypersonic weapon. While Chinese progress in this area surprises no one, the first operational deployment of the weapon will add another weapon to China’s growing antiaccess toolkit, posing a dilemma for U.S. military planners in the Pacific.
What China Tested
Over the past decade China has conducted several tests of potential hypersonic weapons. This new system, however, appears to be a prototype for a deployable capability. As reported by Ankit Panda of the Diplomat, the first test of the DF-17 ballistic missile took place on November 1, 2017, and the second test on November 15. A hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) detached from the missile during the reentry phase and flew approximately 1,400 kilometers to a target.
The DF-17 appears to be a modified version of a previous People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) missile. It may be possible for the PLARF to modify other, longer-range missiles already in its inventory to carry the HGV. The system can almost certainly deliver either nuclear or conventional payloads, depending on strategic and operational necessity.
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