The Chinese government has recently tested a new hypersonic weapon system. The weapon is designed to reach a speed of Mach 5. The “Starry Sky” weapon was tested on August 3rd. It is a super fast weapon which is meant to destroy the enemy’s air and missile defenses. The China Aerospace Aerodynamics Research Institute announced the launch of the weapon on its WeChat account saying that it has conducted the first domestic test of a “wave rider” hypersonic vehicle at 6:41 am on 3rd August.
According to Beijing’s state media, the rocket flew for ten minutes. The hypersonic vehicle which detached itself from the booster rocket flew for 400 seconds and reached the maximum speed of Mach 5.5 to 6 and an altitude of 100,000 feet. The People’s Liberation Army news site has described the wave rider weapon as the one that “uses the aerodynamic shape of the fuselage to generate lift, with a lift-to-drag ratio between 0.5 and 1.3. … it is mainly used for spacecraft design to re-enter the atmosphere. The wave body is used in a wide range of speeds and has a high structural strength, maneuverability and lift-to-drag ratio at Mach 5.23. From the appearance, the wave body looks flat.”
Starry Night 2 appears to be a “boost-glide” weapon. The boost-glide weapons take the rocket to high altitudes, but they fall short of sending their payloads to the low Earth orbit. The weapon then glides down to the target at thousands of miles an hour. The advantage to having boost weapons is that they can confound the current missile defenses. These weapons fly to their destinations at a trajectory which is too low for ballistic missile defense systems and too high for traditional air defense missiles. It is said that a boost-glide weapon can deliver a nuclear weapon against USA’s Ground-Based Midcourse Defense ballistic missile interceptors in Alaska.
China also has a strict no first use policy in regards to the nuclear weapons. A Chinese boost-glide weapon will carry a conventional payload to strike a target like an enemy headquarters or aircraft carrier. China is moving to develop a new “leap ahead” military technology, especially weapons that the US has no established defense against such as railguns and hypersonic weapons. If China can erode the US lead in bleeding edge tech, it will not have to spend a significant sum on any other outdated weapon.