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China tested hypersonic N-missile in August, circled Earth at low orbit: Report

11:03 PM Oct 17, 2021 | AFP

Beijing: China has tested a new space capability with a hypersonic missile, the Financial Times reported on Saturday.

The report, citing multiple sources familiar with the test, said Beijing in August launched a nuclear-capable missile that circled the Earth at low orbit before descending toward its target, which three sources said it missed by over 20 miles (32 km).

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FT sources said the hypersonic glide vehicle was carried by a Long March rocket, launches of which it usually announces, though the August test was kept under wraps.

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The report added that China's progress on hypersonic weapons "caught US intelligence by surprise."

Along with China, the United States, Russia and at least five other countries are working on hypersonic technology.

Hypersonic missiles, like traditional ballistic missiles which can deliver nuclear weapons, can fly at more than five times the speed of sound.

But ballistic missiles fly high into space in an arc to reach their target, while a hypersonic one flies on a trajectory low in the atmosphere, potentially reaching a target more quickly.

While countries like the United States have developed systems designed to defend against cruise and ballistic missiles, the ability to track and take down a hypersonic missile remains a question.

China has been aggressively developing the technology, seeing it as crucial to defend against US gains in hypersonic and other technologies, according to a recent report by the US Congressional Research Service (CRS).

The reported test comes as US-China tensions have mounted and Beijing has stepped up military activity near Taiwan.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment on the FT report.

Also Read: In it's first mission in 5 years, China launches 3 astronauts to its space station

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