Status: 10/28/2021 7:37 a.m.
Even if Beijing disagrees, the US Department of Defense is certain: The Chinese missile test in August was about hypersonic technology. The Pentagon spoke of a “momentous event” that was “very worrying”.
So far, there have only been guesses, but the Pentagon has now officially confirmed it: China tested a nuclear-weapon-capable hypersonic missile in August. It was the “very significant event of the test of a hypersonic weapon system,” said the Chief of Staff of the US Armed Forces, Mark Milley, on Bloomberg TV. The test is “very worrying” and the US is following it “very closely”.
“Very close” to the “Sputnik moment”
Milley said he did not know whether the test of the Chinese hypersonic missile was exactly equivalent to a Sputnik moment, but it was “very close” to it. The so-called Sputnik shock of 1957 was a completely surprising flight of a Soviet Sputnik satellite through earth orbit for the western states. Nobody had managed such a flight before. The event accelerated the arms race and space race.
The “Financial Times” reported last week about an experiment by the Chinese with a hypersonic missile. The sliding body circled the earth in a low orbit at five times the speed of sound, but missed its target by 30 kilometers. Initially, the US government and army did not confirm the test. The US Permanent Representative on Disarmament Issues in Geneva, Robert Wood, was only in general “very concerned” about Beijing’s technical advances in the area of hypersonic missiles at the beginning of last week.
Just a routine test?
The Chinese government immediately denied the newspaper reports. It was a routine test for “reusable space technology,” said Foreign Office spokesman Zhao Lijian on Monday last week. The aim is to reduce the costs of flights into space and thus promote the peaceful use of space.
China had already presented a hypersonic medium-range missile, the DF-17, in 2019. This has a range of around 2000 kilometers. According to the Financial Times, the test last August was a different model with a greater range.
Fast, flexible and difficult to intercept
US disarmament commissioner Wood said that since Russia also had hypersonic technology, the US now had no choice but to respond accordingly. The United States, however, is already working on expanding its arsenal to include hypersonic missiles and has already carried out tests of this missile technology.
Such missiles, which North Korea is also working on, combine the advantages of an ICBM with those of cruise missiles. On the one hand, they are fast and have a long range. On the other hand, they can be flexibly controlled during the flight and are also relatively low on the move, so they can only be detected relatively late by the opposing radar.
Pentagon confirms test Chinese hypersonic missile test
Claudia Sarre, ARD Washington, October 28, 2021 7:15 am