China's hypersonic glider didn't just orbit Earth, it 'fired a missile' while at Mach 5

Middle Kingdom suggests US is making it all up to justify arms development. As if!

A Chinese hypersonic glider that completed a test flight in July appears to be more sophisticated than first thought. It is reported the aircraft was able to fire a missile while travelling at five times the speed of sound.

The glider was launched atop a Long March 2C rocket, and completed at least one orbit of our planet before detaching and descending. As the glider passed over the South China Sea, it fired a missile while traveling at Mach 5, the first time this has been achieved by any such device, multiple sources told the Financial Times.

The United States military is split on the test, the paper reports, with some believing the launched object was some kind of test of a countermeasure against attacks on the glider, and some saying it's some form of air-to-air weapon. The missile fell into the ocean, while the glider crashed into China.

“This development is concerning to us as it should be to all who seek peace and stability in the region and beyond,” a spokesperson for the US National Security Council said. “This also builds on our concern about many military capabilities that the People’s Republic of China continues to pursue.”

Last week General John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the US, shared a few more details of the Chinese orbital test. He told CBS the glider was supposed to reach a certain target in China, and it was "close enough" to its destination. Sources suggested to the FT the aircraft was around two dozen miles off course.

General Hyten claimed the US was falling seriously behind in hypersonics, with China conducting "hundreds of hypersonic tests" over the past five years compared to just nine by Uncle Sam. He also claimed China had already deployed a medium-range hypersonic weapons system, which the US was years away from. That, and China's continuing military buildup, made him nervous about the Middle Kingdom's intentions with this hardware and, say, nuclear warheads.

"They look like a first-use weapon," General Hyten opined. "That's what those weapons look like to me."

Certainly the US has been trying to develop its own hypersonic weapons albeit with little success, publicly. The Air Force's AGM-183A glider weapon was supposed to have flown last December, and then in April, and then had an unsuccessful launch in July when its rockets failed to ignite.

The Chinese embassy in the US said it was “not aware” of the missile test it reportedly carried out earlier this year. It also suggested, as others have, that America's military is keen to talk up China's capabilities to justify continued weapons spending, development, and deployment.

“We are not at all interested in having an arms race with other countries,” said Liu Pengyu, an embassy spokesperson. “The US has in recent years been fabricating excuses like ‘the China threat’ to justify its arms expansion and development of hypersonic weapons.”

Others are not quite so reticent, such as Vladimir Putin. The Russian supremo claimed his country is developing Kinzhal, or Dagger, a missile capable of ten times the speed of sound with a range of 2,000 miles. Even North Korea claimed to have launched a hypersonic test vehicle.

Certainly some at the Pentagon seem set on action. On Saturday, General David Thompson, vice-chief of space operations at the US Space Force, told the Halifax International Security Forum that the US was “not as advanced” as Russia and China in hypersonics. The US Army, Navy, and Air Force all have programs, he said, as you can see below.

Youtube Video

“We have catching up to do very quickly," he said. "The Chinese have had an incredibly aggressive hypersonic program for several years. I agree with General Hyten."

Hypersonic technology "changes the strategic warning game," he said. Ballistic missiles are easy to track and increasingly possible to counter, Thompson claimed. But, because of their maneuverability and speed, hypersonic weapons would be much harder to track and the final target wouldn't be known essentially until impact. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022