China tests hypersonic nuclear-capable missile, surprising US intelligence

“We have no idea how they did this,” said one person familiar with the test.

By Josh Plank, World Israel News

China tested a new nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August that left U.S. intelligence officials stunned, the Financial Times reported Saturday, citing five unnamed sources.

The weapon, known as a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), was launched into space by a Long March rocket before circling the globe at low orbit. It then cruised down towards its target, missing the mark by about 24 miles.

“We have no idea how they did this,” an unnamed source familiar with the test told the Financial Times.

Taylor Fravel, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an expert on Chinese nuclear weapons policy, said that a nuclear-armed HGV could help China overcome U.S. missile defense systems.

HGVs differ from traditional ballistic missiles in several key ways. While HGVs fly at a slower speed, they don’t follow the fixed trajectory of a ballistic missile, making them harder to target.

“Hypersonic glide vehicles . . . fly at lower trajectories and can maneuver in flight, which makes them hard to track and destroy,” Fravel said.

Two of the people familiar with the Chinese test told the Financial Times that the weapon could be used to target the U.S. by flying over the South Pole, exploiting a potential vulnerability in U.S. missile defense systems which are primarily focused on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) traveling over the North Pole.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall may have dropped a hint about China’s new weapons system during his keynote speech at the annual Air Force Association conference last month.

Kendall warned that Chinese threats included “the potential for global strikes, strikes from space.”

When questioned about the statement by reporters, Kendall spoke of “a system that basically goes into orbit and then de-orbits to a target.”

“If you use that kind of approach, you don’t have to use a traditional ICBM trajectory,” he said. “It’s a way to avoid defense systems and missile warning systems.”

China reportedly conducted the HGV test in August, while much of the world was focused on the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and the Biden administration’s controversial withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country.