The US Navy and Army tested hypersonic weapon prototypes following China’s test launch of a nuclear-capable space missile that has “worried” Joe Biden.
While China has denied reports it tested a hypersonic missile that circled the earth, claiming it was a “routine spacecraft experiment,” the president said he was concerned about the August test that reportedly left the Pentagon stunned.
The three “successful” tests of hypersonic weapon component prototypes NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Wednesday will inform the development of new weapons, the Pentagon said in a statement to Reuters.
The Navy and Army will conduct a flight test of the common hypersonic missile in fiscal 2022, which began on 1 October.
The tests by Sandia National Laboratory “inform the development of the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) and the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) offensive hypersonic strike” the statement said.
It comes days after the Financial Times reported that China tested a weapon that flew around the earth’s low orbit before returning to earth toward a target it ultimately missed.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Wednesday the administration had raised concerns to China about hypersonic missile technology through “diplomatic channels”, but told reporters they welcome “stiff competition” so long as it doesn’t veer into conflict.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham sent a letter to Senate leadership on Wednesday asking for an intelligence community and the Defence Department on the “game-changing event”.
“Hypersonic” weapons reach the upper atmosphere at speeds more than five times the sound barrier. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency successfully tested an air-breathing hypersonic weapon in September.
While a source quoted by the Times said the US has “no idea how they did this”, the Biden administration’s nominee for ambassador to Beijing told a Senate committee hearing on Thursday that China’s power should not be overestimated, adding they have “very few friends. They have no real allies.”
“We ought not to exaggerate their strengths or underestimate the strengths of the United States,” Nicholas Burns told the committee. “What we need is self confidence that the United States is a strong country.”
The Independent, UK.