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China tests nuclear capable hypersonic missile

  • IASbaba
  • November 1, 2021
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China tests nuclear capable hypersonic missile

Part of: Prelims and GS II – International Relations and GS-III – Defence and Security 

Context China’s military has carried out its first-ever test of a “nuclear capable hypersonic missile”.

  • It circled the globe through low-orbit space before speeding towards its target,  demonstrating an advanced space capability 
  • Only the U.S, Russia and China were developing hypersonic glide vehicles that are launched on rockets and then orbit the earth at their own speed. 
    • They are difficult to track because unlike ballistic missiles, they “do not follow the fixed parabolic trajectory”.
  • Challenge for USA: The weapon could, in theory, fly over the South Pole which would pose a big challenge for the U.S. military because its missiles defence systems are focused on the northern polar route

What is a hypersonic missile?

  • Hypersonics are defined as being able to travel at velocities of at least five times the speed of sound — Mach 5, or more than 6,100 kilometres (3,800 miles) per hour. 
  • They can also manoeuvre in mid-flight, making them much harder to track and intercept than traditional projectiles.
  • By cutting flight times, they also reduce the opportunity to respond.
  • Depending on the design, they can be capable of carrying nuclear warheads or conventional only, and have the potential to alter the strategic balance.

Which countries possess them? 

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