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China tests new hypersonic missile vehicle

Beijing, Jan 17 (): China has done an experimental flight of a hypersonic missile delivery vehicle intended to travel several times faster than the speed of sound.

A statement issued by China’s Ministry of National Defense on January 16 said the test of China’s new “hypersonic glide vehicle” that apparently took place on January 9, was not intended to advance the ability of the nation to penetrate American missile defence systems.

The statement said that it was normal for China to conduct scientific experiments within its borders according to its plans and the tests were neither aimed at any nation nor any specific target.

According to the US newspaper the Washington Free Beacon,China’s hypersonic glide vehicle is likely launched atop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), then released at an altitude of 62 miles (100 kilometres) or less. The statement said the glider can then zoom toward its target at up to 10 times the speed of sound. They first reported the test on January 13.

Reports say a hypersonic glide vehicle carrying a missile would be more difficult to detect, track and intercept than a standard ICBM as the former’s route does not reach outer space.

The newspaper also said China stands second in performing such tests after the US to have effectively tested a hypersonic delivery vehicle capable to carry nuclear weapons at a speed above Mach 10. The hypersonic vehicles, designed by the US, Russia and India are developed for exact targeting and fast delivery of weapons. They are intended to counter aggressive missile and space defences.

Meanwhile, Pentagon in its annual report on the Chinese military made no indication of hypersonic test flights but did say the Chinese had built a hypersonic wind tunnel for experiments.

The surging economic power of China has been matched by increasing military might, including investments in an aircraft carrier, anti-ship ballistic missiles, satellites and other hardware.