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It was the seventh successful flight test of the revolutionary glider, which travels at speeds between 4,000 and 7,000 miles per hour.

China successfully flight tested its new high-speed maneuvering warhead last week, days after Russia carried out its own hypersonic glider test, according to Pentagon officials.

The test of the developmental DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle was monitored after launch Friday atop a ballistic missile fired from the Wuzhai missile launch center in central China, said officials familiar with reports of the test.

The maneuvering glider, traveling at several thousand miles per hour, was tracked by satellites as it flew west along the edge of the atmosphere to an impact area in the western part of the country.

It was the seventh successful flight test of the revolutionary glider, which travels at speeds between 4,000 and 7,000 miles per hour.

U.S. intelligence officials have assessed that China plans to use the glider to deliver nuclear weapons through increasingly sophisticated missile defenses. The DF-ZF also could be used as part of a conventional strategic strike weapon capable of hitting targets around the world within an hour.

Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Bill Urban declined to comment on the latest DF-ZF flight test. "But we do monitor Chinese military modernization carefully," Urban said.

Rep. Randy Forbes (R., Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on seapower, said China’s hypersonic missile tests are a concern.

"China’s repeated test of a hypersonic glide vehicle demonstrates Beijing is committed to upending both the conventional military and nuclear balance, with grave implications for the stability of Asia," Forbes told the Washington Free Beacon.

Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, said Jan. 22 that the new hypersonic glide vehicle is among an array of high-technology missiles and weapons, both nuclear and conventional, being developed and deployed by Beijing.

China "recently conducted its sixth successful test of a hypersonic glide vehicle, and as we saw in September last year, is parading missiles clearly displaying their modernization and capability advancements," Haney said.

China has kept details about the DF-ZF program secret. In March 2015, a Defense Ministry spokesman confirmed one of the hypersonic missile tests after the test was reported in the Free Beacon. The spokesman said the missile test was not aimed at any country and was done for scientific research.

Earlier DF-ZF tests were carried out Nov. 23, Aug. 19, June 7, and on Jan. 9, 2014, Aug. 7, 2014, and Dec. 2, 2014. During at least one test, the maneuvering glider conducted what a defense official said were "extreme maneuvers" at speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 10.

All the tests were first disclosed by the Free Beacon

Extensive testing and reported successes are indications the new weapon is nearing initial operating capability, although deployment may be years away.

The congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated in its most recent annual report that the hypersonic glide vehicle program was "progressing rapidly" and that the new strike weapon could be deployed by 2020.

A powered version also is in development and could be fielded by 2025.

"The very high speeds of these weapons, combined with their maneuverability and ability to travel at lower, radar-evading altitudes, would make them far less vulnerable than existing missiles to current missile defenses," the commission report said.

Li Bingyan, a researcher at China’s National Security Policy Committee, stated in a defense industry journal article published Jan. 27 that hypersonic weapons offer increased speed of attack. "Only by matching the real-time information with the zero-time firepower can one achieve the operational result of destruction upon detection," Li stated.

China also is taking steps to strengthen its underground missile silos and facilities to withstand precision strikes by hypersonic missiles, such as those planned under the Pentagon’s Prompt Global Strike program.

The latest Chinese hypersonic glide vehicle test was conducted three days after Russia carried out a flight test of its experimental hypersonic glide vehicle. That glider test involved the launch of an SS-19 ballistic missile fired from a missile base in eastern Russia.

The two tests highlight what many analysts have called a new hypersonic arms race among China, Russia, and the United States. India also is working on hypersonic arms.

As radar, sensors, and missile interceptors used to counter missile threats increase in capability, hypersonic maneuvering missiles are viewed as a technological leap in strike capabilities to overcome them, analysts say.

Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon strategic forces specialist, said the new Chinese hypersonic glider is a serious threat.

"In testimony before the congressional China commission, an Air Force intelligence analyst revealed that it is nuclear armed although there could also be a conventional version," Schneider said.

"The Chinese probably see this as one of their ‘assassin’s mace’ weapons which are designed to defeat the U.S."

According to Schneider, a National Academy of Science study concluded that hypersonic speed was the equivalent very high levels of radar-evading stealth features against air and missile defenses.

"Hypersonic speed also gets you to the target very fast which may be decisive in dealing with mobile targets," he said.

Retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell, a former Pacific Fleet intelligence director, said the latest flight test of the DF-ZF represents another demonstration of China’s commitment to aggressively develop asymmetric power projection capabilities and a weapon that could undermine U.S. missile defenses.

"The threat of hypersonic missile attack not only impacts conventional warfare scenarios like we are seeing develop in the South and East China Sea, but it also puts U.S. nuclear defense strategies at risk as well," Fanell said.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told the newspaper Kommersant in October 2012 that the nation that masters hypersonic weapons first would revolutionize warfare. He compared the strategic significance of the high-speed weapons to development of the first atomic bombs.

By contrast, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency is doing little to deal with the emerging hypersonic missile threat.

Vice Adm. James Syring, the agency director, told a Senate hearing April 13 that two countries he did not name have created major worries about the growing hypersonic missile threat.

Syring said for future missile threats, his agency is looking at upgraded Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile defenses.

Yet despite its $7.5 billion budget for fiscal 2017, the agency has not funded any direct programs to counter hypersonic arms. In the current budget, $23 million was requested for a low-powered laser capable of targeting hypersonic missiles, Syring told a House hearing.

The first test of the laser, however, is not planned until 2021, after China is expected to field its first DF-ZF.
Compared to China’s seven tests, the April 19 hypersonic missile test was the second known test of Moscow’s new high-speed glider.

Stephen Welby, assistant defense secretary for research and engineering, said the Pentagon is increasing investment in hypersonic weapons by 50 percent. The increase is intended to "take those systems from being technology demonstrators to being no-kidding weapons that we could actually think about deploying with our force," Welby told a Senate hearing April 12.

U.S. hypersonic arms are part of a Pentagon strategy to use highly-advanced technology to enhance U.S. strategic military advantages. Other technologies include robotics, biotech, cyber defenses, and electronic warfare weapons.

An Army hypersonic missile blew up shortly after launch in August 2014.

Other U.S. hypersonic weapons include a missile-launched glider and a scramjet-powered strike vehicle.

According to a U.S. government source who described recent intelligence assessments on the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) on the condition of anonymity, China recently conducted two tests of a new missile known as the DF-17. The first test took place on November 1 and the second test took place on November 15. The November 1 test was the first Chinese ballistic missile test to take place after the conclusion of the first plenum of the Communist Party of China’s 19th Party Congress in October.

China is working on the ultra-fast maneuverable strike weapon, which will be able to penetrate existing missile defense systems, writes Bill Gertz for The Washington Free Beacon. The glide vehicle was launched on top of a ballistic missile from the Wuzhai missile test center in Central China, according to defense officials.

Hypersonic vehicle could deliver nuclear or conventional warheads
After detaching from the launcher near the edge of space, the vehicle glided to an impact site several thousand miles away. U.S. intelligence agencies tracked the flight, during which the vehicle reach speeds of over five times the speed of sound (Mach 5).

Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Bill Urban declined to comment. “We do not comment on specific PRC weapons tests, but we do monitor Chinese military modernization carefully,” he said.

Beijing appears to be placing a high priority on developing the vehicle, which has been tested 6 times since last year. U.S. intelligence agencies believe that the DZ-ZF is a nuclear delivery vehicle that boasts such maneuverability at high speeds that it would dodge existing missile defense systems.

Military specialists also think that the DZ-ZF could be used to deliver conventional weapons around the globe. It travels at between Mach 5 and Mach 10, or 3,836 miles per hour and 7,680 miles per hour.

Chinese research projects worrying for U.S. officials
Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, expressed his worries over hypersonic glide vehicles last year. The annual report of the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission states that China’s research into hypersonic weapons is “progressing rapidly.”

The report says that the DZ-ZF could be ready by 2020, and a ramjet-propelled cruise missile by 2025. It is thought that China would use nuclear-armed hypersonic vehicles in its retaliatory strike capabilities, while conventional warheads could be delivered over long-distances.

Air Force Lt. Gen. James Kowalski, former deputy commander of Strategic Command, said that hypersonic missiles offer a number of advantages. “It offers a number of different ways to overcome defenses, whether those are conventional, or if someone would decide to use a nuclear warhead, I think gives it an even more complicated dimension,” Kowalski said.

At this time only China, the United States and Russia are working on hypersonic weapons. Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said that Beijing may be working on a conventional global attack capability much like the Prompt Global Strike program that is being developed by the U.S.

China close to having global strike capability
Fisher claims that China’s new Kuaizhou-2 launcher could be used in conjunction with Beijing’s anti-satellite missiles in addition to boosting the DZ-ZF to intercontinental range. At the same time China is developing surveillance satellites that will enable it to use precision global strike weapons.
By 2030 China will have around 138 satellites in space, which “means that an intercontinental [Prompt Global Strike] launched from China against U.S. targets could benefit from multiple target location updates,” Fisher said.

China maintains a veil of secrecy around its military technology programs and has refused to negotiate limits on strategic weapons, raising fears in Washington. Some are calling for the U.S. to push ahead with developing its own Prompt Global Strike capability in order to compete with China.

Relations between the two nations are becoming increasingly strained due to various geopolitical factors, and the development of hypersonic weapons could give one nation the edge over the other.




Sources for this article include:
StevieRay Hansen Investigative Reporter for SrhNews.com and HNewsWire.com

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