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Vice chairman of joint chiefs of staff warns China has done hundreds of hypersonic missile tests

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The public should be worried that China has completed hundreds of hypersonic missile tests while the US has done less than 10, says the nation’s second-highest ranking military officer, echoing previous concerns by top military brass.

Speaking at a Defense Writers Group roundtable, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Hyten said China’s hypersonic missile advancements is an area of concern.

‘What you need to be worried about is that in the last five years, or maybe longer, the United States has done nine hypersonic missile tests, and in the same time the Chinese have done hundreds,’ Hyten said, according to reports.

‘Single digits versus hundreds is not a good place.’

He did not elaborate on his concerns.

A hypersonic air-breathing weapons concept missile is seen in an artist's conception

A hypersonic air-breathing weapons concept missile is seen in an artist’s conception

DF-17 Dongfeng medium-range ballistic missiles equipped with a DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle, are shown in this 2019 file photo

DF-17 Dongfeng medium-range ballistic missiles equipped with a DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle, are shown in this 2019 file photo

It was revealed last week that a rocket failure caused a delay in the US military’s test of its hypersonic weapons system.

The military scheduled a test of its Army-Navy common hypersonic glide body in Kodiak, Alaska but it failed to launch, ABC News reported.

Meanwhile, China conducted a second test of a suspected hypersonic orbital missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, intelligence sources have claimed.

The new test is believed to have taken place on August 13 and involved a similar ‘hypersonic glide vehicle’ to one launched into space on board a Long March rocket in July, which was first reported earlier this week.

The new technology is reported to have caught US officials off guard, particularly as the system ‘defies the laws of physics’ and appears superior to anything in the American arsenal.

Hyten said the pace in which China is moving was ‘stunning.’

Joint Chiefs of Staff General vice chairman John Hyten said the public should be worried that China has completed hundreds of hypersonic missile tests while the US has done 9

Joint Chiefs of Staff General vice chairman John Hyten said the public should be worried that China has completed hundreds of hypersonic missile tests while the US has done 9

China is thought to have carried out two tests of a hypersonic orbital nuke - the first on July 27 and the second on August 13 this year. Observers believe the 'weapon' is an updated version of a Soviet concept called a 'Fractional Orbital Bombardment System', or FOBS. It is designed to evade powerful US radar systems and anti-missile defences designed to shoot down traditional ICBMs by flying in low-Earth orbit, making it harder to spot, track and destroy

China is thought to have carried out two tests of a hypersonic orbital nuke – the first on July 27 and the second on August 13 this year. Observers believe the ‘weapon’ is an updated version of a Soviet concept called a ‘Fractional Orbital Bombardment System’, or FOBS. It is designed to evade powerful US radar systems and anti-missile defences designed to shoot down traditional ICBMs by flying in low-Earth orbit, making it harder to spot, track and destroy 

‘The pace they’re moving and the trajectory they’re on will surpass Russia and the United States if we don’t do something to change it,’ he said. ‘It will happen.

The two types of hypersonic weapons:

Hypersonic glide vehicles 

A hypersonic glide vehicle is boosted aloft on a rocket to heights of between 25 miles to 62 miles above the earth before detaching to glide along the upper atmosphere towards its target. 

It is released at a height and speed that would allow it to glide unpowered to the target. 

Control surfaces on the glide vehicle mean it can steer an unpredictable course and maneuver sharply as it approaches impact.

These glide vehicles follow a much flatter and lower trajectory than the high, arching path of a ballistic missile. 

Hypersonic cruise missiles

These missiles are powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines after acquiring their target. 

While they have internal engines,  unlike regular cruise missiles, they travel far faster and higher. 

‘I think we have to do something.’

Hyten’s concerns echoed those expressed earlier this week by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff.

Milley called China’s suspected testing of hypersonic weapons ‘very concerning’ during an interview with The David Rubenstein Show on Bloomberg Television.

‘I don’t know if it’s quite a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to that,’ he added, referencing when the Soviet Union beat America to space in 1957 with its Sputnik satellite. ‘It has all of our attention.’

Milley also warned that the new missile systems are just one of many things the U.S. should be concerned about as the Chinese military expands.

‘The Chinese military capabilities are much greater than that. They’re expanding rapidly in space, in cyber, and in the traditional domains of land, sea and air,’ he told Bloomberg. ‘We’re in one of the most significant changes in what I call the “character of war.“’

The technology is designed to cut off enemy supply lines in the event of a conflict, the state-owned Global Times newspaper reported, adding that sneak attacks using underwater charges will make large vessels like American aircraft carriers vulnerable.

Underwater demolitions are a response to changing U.S. tactics in the Pacific, it added, claiming that Washington is dividing its forces between smaller locations instead of concentrating them in one place to mitigate the damage from attacks.

This tactic increases the strain on logistics operations required to keep large vessels such as aircraft carriers afloat, the Times said, making attacks on infrastructure such as ports and wharfs more important.

‘With ports destroyed, enemy logistics support will fail and a dispersed fighting force… will also fail,’ an unnamed military expert told the paper.

ABC News cited a US official who said that a booster rocket with a hypersonic glide body attached failed to launch during a launch test at Kodiak, Alaska. The image above shows a March 19, 2020 test of the joint Army-Navy common hypersonic glide body that is being developed for launch from both land and submarine

ABC News cited a US official who said that a booster rocket with a hypersonic glide body attached failed to launch during a launch test at Kodiak, Alaska. The image above shows a March 19, 2020 test of the joint Army-Navy common hypersonic glide body that is being developed for launch from both land and submarine

It is just the latest move in a global arms race between Russia, China and the US which is taking place against the backdrop of mounting tensions between the superpowers in the eastern Pacific.

All three countries are engaged in wholesale updates of their militaries including the development of new nuclear technology with which they can strike each-other at range.

Russia and China have, in recent years, unveiled new and more-powerful ICBMs which are capable of launching multiple nuclear warheads at targets many thousands of miles away.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff described China's alleged testing of hypersonic weapons as 'very concerning'

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff described China’s alleged testing of hypersonic weapons as ‘very concerning’  

China, the US and Russia are engaged in a global arms race that now includes the development of hypersonic missile technology. Here, the MailOnline has compared (from left) each country's main nuclear weapon, the latest hypersonic technology they have tested, their most up-to-date aircraft carriers, main battle tanks, and cutting-edge jets

China, the US and Russia are engaged in a global arms race that now includes the development of hypersonic missile technology. Here, the MailOnline has compared (from left) each country’s main nuclear weapon, the latest hypersonic technology they have tested, their most up-to-date aircraft carriers, main battle tanks, and cutting-edge jets

The United States, Russia and at least five other countries are also working on hypersonic technology, and last month North Korea said it had test-fired a newly-developed hypersonic missile.

Russia has previously tested a hypersonic cruise missile known as Zircon, but it flies below the atmosphere and uses fuel to power itself to hypersonic speeds rather than the Earth’s orbit.

The Pentagon did not comment on China’s testing of the hypersonic missile, but did acknowledge China as their ‘number one pacing challenge’.

‘We have made clear our concerns about the military capabilities China continues to pursue, capabilities that only increase tensions in the region and beyond,’ John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesperson, told Fox News. ‘That is one reason why we hold China as our number one pacing challenge.’

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