hinese scientists are claiming a breakthrough with a new generation of long-range, potentially intercontinental hypersonic weapons. Allegedly, Beijing now has a newly-developed scramjet that was able to run continuously for 600 seconds in a ground test.
A report in Global Times says the new scramjet-propelled weapon extends the range of China’s existing DF-17 boost-glide hypersonic weapon by as much as five times, introducing the prospect of turning it into an intercontinental hypersonic missile.
“The DF-17 is a short to medium-range missile, and using a scramjet can potentially extend its range by at least five times, allowing it to become intercontinental,” the paper said.
Citing the “Institute of Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences,” the news report claims that the new weapons broke the “world record of 210 seconds set by the U.S.’ X-51 aircraft.”
While it may not be clear if this claim has been independently or separately verified, it does raise new threat dimensions for U.S. missile defense which is currently refining new technical methods of countering or destroying incoming hypersonic attacks. Unlike a shorter range boost-glide hypersonic weapon, which uses a large rocket to propel a kill vehicle up along the boundary of the earth’s atmosphere before using its speed of descent to destroy a target with pure kinetic energy, a scramjet can utilize a smaller and longer-range form factor. The Global Times quotes experts describing its shape as “stealthier.” Furthermore, a supersonic combustion scramjet benefits from what the article describes as a “constant thrust,” giving it greater range and lethal trajectory.
Hypersonic weapons, of course, can travel up to five-times the speed of time to destroy or overwhelm targets and defenses much faster than they can respond, bringing new risks to carriers, armored columns and even heavily defended fixed command and control buildings. China claims to already have an operational hypersonic weapon, the DF-17 boost-glide missile it formally unveiled in October of 2019. The paper also says that China is making progress with yet another hypersonic weapon… the Xingkong-2, or Starry Sky-2, China’s first waverider hypersonic flight vehicle.