The latest test of what the Pentagon calls the Wu-14 hypersonic glide vehicle was carried out from the Wuzhai missile test range in central China. The test was judged successful, according to defense officials familiar with details of the event.
Current U.S. defenses are designed to track missiles that travel in predictable flight paths and are unable to counter maneuvering warheads and glide vehicles.
The latest Wu-14 test took place Wednesday.
|WU-14 Hypersonic Missile|
It was the fifth test of the glide vehicle and the second since June.
China has had two successful hypersonic missile tests in a span of two months.
The weapon is launched as the last stage of a missile that reaches speeds of around Mach 10, or 10 times the speed of sound—around 7,680 miles per hour.
Military analysts said the Chinese test schedule indicates that China may be close to deploying the high priority weapon.
A defense official, however, said the Wu-14 is viewed as a serious emerging strategic threat that could complicate U.S. nuclear deterrent efforts.
“At a minimum this latest test indicates China is likely succeeding in achieving a key design objective: building a warhead capable of withstanding the very high stress of hypersonic maneuvering,” said Rick Fisher, a China military expert. “It is likely that the test vehicle will form the basis for a missile launched weapon.”
“The advent of a Chinese hypersonic weapon may pose the greatest early threat to large U.S. Navy ships,” said Fisher, a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center. “The best prospect for a defensive response would be to greatly accelerate railgun development.