China may have recently conducted a successful test of the fastest hypersonic aircraft in the world, reports Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao.
According to a report released Friday on the official website of state-owned aerospace and defense giant Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), one of its test flight centers has completed an initial test flight on an unspecified high-altitude, super-fast aircraft with a "unique flying style."
Though the report was deleted shortly after, military analysts believe it is likely that China is developing a new hypersonic aircraft that can travel at five times the speed of sound.
|US SR-71 Blackbird strategic Reconnaissance Aircraft|
The Shanghai-based Guancha Syndicate said that while the AVIC report did not divulge the model of the plane or what missions it can carry out, it is clear from reading between the lines that the aircraft is a hypersonic demonstrator that can travel at record speeds. This means an aircraft that can travel faster than Mach 5, or 6,125 kilometers per hour.
From the descriptions, it does not appear to be a WU-14 hypersonic glide vehicle but rather a new large-sized reconnaissance jet that can that can reach hypersonic speeds on its own, Guancha added.
Hong Kong's Phoenix Television also said that the AVIC report referred to "test pilots," but since the term can also be used to describe drone pilots, it is impossible to confirm at this stage whether the aircraft is manned or unmanned.
Experts added that if the next-generation aircraft is manned, then it would be faster than the SR-71 Blackbird, a long-range, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft operated by the US Air Force. If unmanned, it would be comparable to the SR-72, a conceptualized hypersonic drone envisioned to travel as fast as Mach 6.
Ta Kung Pao stated that while there must still be many technical issues to overcome before a stable hypersonic aircraft can be developed, the AVIC report, if true, would still mark a major step forward in China's strategic deterrence capabilities.