China tests nuclear capable hypersonic missile
Part of: Prelims and GS II – International Relations and GS-III – Defence and Security
- 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?
- Russia, USA and China
- Russia is generally seen as the world leader in technology so far, developing a range of new hypersonic weapons that
- In July it successfully tested the Zircon, a ship-launched hypersonic missile travelling at seven times the speed of sound.
- It already has Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles and the air-launched Kinzhal (Dagger) missiles in its arsenal.