China’s newly-tested hypersonic aircraft has the potential to outfox any country’s missile defence system, an Australian expert has warned.
The experimental Starry Sky-2 – known as the Waverider – made its first test flight on Friday at an undisclosed location in northwest China, The South China Morning Post reports.
It has the potential to carry weapons at six times the speed of sound.
Adam Ni, a Chinese defence expert at the Australian National University, says the Waverider presents a “powerful addition” to China’s military.
“The successful testing and development of the Starry Sky 2 Waverider hypersonic vehicle is a huge step forward for China’s hypersonic weapons program,” he told nine.com.au
“Hypersonic missiles will be an powerful addition to the already diversified suite of missile weapons at the disposal of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army).
“Importantly, it would enable the PLA to defeat any existing missile defence systems of any other country, including the US.”
Capable of riding the shock waves it creates by its path, the aircraft was carried into space by a multistage rocket before separating, the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics said.
State officials claimed it carried out extreme turns and hit a top speed of Mach 6, or 7,344km/h, and hailed the test flight a “huge success”.
Despite being an experimental aircraft, the Waverider has the potential to carry warheads capable of outwitting existing anti-missile shields.
Current defence systems can only intercept incoming missiles flying at low speeds and whose trajectories can be easily predicted.
Beijing-based military analyst Zhou Chenming told The South China Morning Post the aircraft had “military applications”. The Waverider could initially be deployed with conventional weapons rather than nuclear ones.
“I think there are still three to five years before this technology can be weaponised,” he said.
“As well as being fitted to missiles, it may also have other military applications, which are still being explored.”
Earlier this year, a top US general admitted the superpower is virtually defenceless against the futuristic nuclear weapons being built by Russia and China.
General John Hyten, chief of the US Air Force Strategic Command, told US senators the speed and maneuverability of hypersonic missiles makes them too hard for American defences to obstruct.
His warning came after Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled a new range of weapon delivery systems designed to evade NATO’s anti-missile defences.
Putin told TV viewers the country’s military was building a new hypersonic missile and a nuclear-powered cruise missile with “unlimited range” that could evade detection by Russia’s enemies.