China confirms hypersonic missile vehicle test

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Originally published on January 20, 2014

China's Ministry of National Defense confirmed on Wednesday (January 15) that the country has recently tested a hypersonic missile vehicle.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, the test was carried out on January 9. The Pentagon has dubbed the experimental weapon the WU-14. The hypersonic vehicle is reportedly designed to fit on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile. The vehicle is released a height of 100 km or less, then flies at speeds as fast as Mach 10 — or 10 times the speed of sound — to its target. The hypersonic vehicle does not enter space, which makes it more difficult to detect, track and intercept with a missile defense interceptor.

"It is normal for China to conduct scientific experiments within its borders according to its plans," China's Ministry of National Defense said in a statement quoted in the China Daily. "The tests were not aimed at any nation nor any specific target."

The advantages of hypersonic vehicles include precise targeting, rapid delivery of weapons and greater survivability against missile and space defenses.

The United States is developing two hypersonic vehicles: the unpowered Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2 and the X-51 Waverider, a scramjet powered high-speed vehicle.

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