December 5, 2021

Report: Biden admin surprised by Chinese test of nuclear-capable hypersonic missile

In news that has sent shockwaves through the Biden administration, and indeed the world, the Financial Times reports that in August, China conducted a test of a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile, a move which revealed an advanced degree of capability of which U.S. officials were apparently unaware.

Sources familiar with the situation told the Times that the rocket launch was characterized by its inclusion of a hypersonic glide vehicle that traveled across low-orbit space and then cruised downward toward its intended target.

While it was also reported that the missile wound up falling short of its predetermined destination by approximately 24 miles, experts suggested that the entire scenario indicates that China has made staggering progress in its hypersonic weapons development and has done so to an extent that was not fully appreciated by American officials.

As articulated to the Times by Taylor Fravel, an authority on Chinese nuclear weapons programs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a hypersonic glide vehicle equipped with nuclear capability such as the one reportedly tested in August could assist Beijing in negating American missile defense systems.

One of those who spoke to the Times expressed questions about just how and why United States officials could have so grossly underestimated China’s pace of work in this realm of missile technology. “We have no idea how they did this,” the source declared.

According to the Washington Examiner Defense Department spokesperson John Kirby has stated that the U.S. views China as the primary “pacing challenge” as work toward expanding hypersonic missile capacity continues on both sides.

Kirby added, the outlet noted, that “We have made clear our concerns about the military capabilities China continues to pursue, capabilities that only increase tensions in the region and beyond.”

Revelations about the August test are particularly disconcerting in that they come on the heels of an increasingly aggressive Chinese stance toward Taiwan as well as news this summer of the country’s construction of a large number of new missile silos in its western desert.

Though, as the Times noted, Chinese government spokesperson Liu Pengyu provided assurances that the Asian power is “not at all interested in having an arms race with other countries,” its recent actions seem to tell a different story, and that the Pentagon appears to have been caught completely flat-footed by the August missile test is an alarming development, indeed.

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