HONG KONG: China’s new “hypersonic” ballistic missiles will not only challenge the defences of the United States but also be able to more accurately hit military targets in Japan and India, according to Chinese military specialists.
The assessment comes after Tokyo-based The Diplomat magazine reported that China’s rocket forces conducted two tests late last year of a new “hypersonic glide vehicle”, or HGV, known as the DF-17, citing US intelligence sources.
HGVs are unmanned, rocket-launched, manoeuvrable aircraft that glide and “skip” through the earth’s atmosphere at incredibly fast speeds.
Compared to conventional ballistic systems, HGV warheads can travel at much higher speeds, lower altitudes and less-trackable trajectories. The approach leaves defence systems less time to intercept the warhead before it drops its payload.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Rocket Force carried out the first test on November 1 and the second one two weeks later, the report said.
Both tests were successful and the DF-17 could be operational by around 2020, the US intelligence sources were quoted as saying.
Chinese military specialists said the DF-17 was one of several iterations of glider systems developed by the PLA, including the DF-ZF which has been through at least seven tests.
Song Zhongping, a former member of the PLA’s Second Artillery Corps, the rocket wing’s predecessor, said the DF-17 was the weaponised model of the DF-ZF prototype.