FPI / March 19, 2023
China has increased the threat of nuclear and conventional attacks on the United States via its lead in developing and deploying several types of hypersonic missiles, the chief scientist of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) told Congress on March 10.
Hypersonic missiles, including gliders and “scramjet”-powered cruise missiles that maneuver to targets at more than five times the speed of sound to avoid detection, have been added to China arsenal, Paul F. Freisthler told the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee..
As the Defense Department scrambles to catch up, the U.S. homeland is vulnerable to a sudden attack from the missiles that can strike with little or no warning, Freisthler said, adding that hypersonic missiles can shorten the time of a long-range attack over several thousand miles from 30 minutes to 15 minutes.
“Over the past two decades, China has dramatically advanced its development of conventional and nuclear-armed hypersonic missile technologies and capabilities, through intense and focused investment, development, testing and deployments,” Freisthler told the House panel.
Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn, Colorado Republican, said the status of the race to develop and deploy hypersonic arsenals is troubling.
“We are behind, and I am concerned we are not doing enough to close the gap as our adversaries continue to test and develop new capabilities at a much faster rate,” he said.
China has construction 21 wind tunnels, including three used for testing missiles with speeds of up to Mach 12, or more than 9,200 miles per hour, the DIA analyst said.
Security corresponded Bill Gertz noted that the Pentagon, Energy Department and NASA “have more than 20 wind tunnels. But 14 of those sites were built in the 1970s and may be obsolete for testing and building hypersonics,” according to his Washington Times report.
The Air Force and several U.S. universities are building new wind tunnels capable of testing missiles with speeds of up to Mach 6, or more than 4,600 mph, an indication that may be the speed of future U.S. maneuvering missiles.
China’s medium-range DF-17 missile is equipped with a hypersonic strike vehicle with a range of at least 1,000 miles, “enabling it to reach U.S. military forces in the western Pacific,” Freisthler said.
China is also building an intercontinental-range ballistic missile with a hypersonic payload, including a missile tested in July 2021 that circled the globe before striking a surface target, he added.
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