The highest-ranking U.S. military official, General Mark Millie, today publicly confirmed that Beijing had tested a supersonic missile in August, acknowledging that the United States was taken by surprise.
“What we saw was (…) a very important test of an ultrasonic armament system,” the U.S. military chief of staff said in an interview with Bloomberg. “He has all our attention,” he added.
Millie likened this test to the launch in October 1957 of the first USSR satellite, Sputnik, from the then USSR, which caught hexapine in the United States and marked the beginning of the space race. “I do not know if it is exactly like Sputnik, but I think it is very close,” he said.
The general is the first US official to publicly confirm information from the Financial Times, which wrote in mid-October that China had launched a nuclear-capable missile that orbited the Earth in low orbit before heading for its target. . He said, however, that the rocket eventually missed its target, as it fell more than 30 kilometers away.
Beijing has denied the allegations, saying it was a “routine test” of a spacecraft.
China had already introduced by 2019 a supersonic missile, the DF-17, which is medium-range (around 2,000 kilometers) and can carry nuclear warheads. The rocket reported in the newspaper is different, it can reach space, orbit and then return to the atmosphere to hit its target. Its range is therefore much larger.
The US does not yet have supersonic missiles in its arsenal but is trying to acquire them. Darpa, the U.S. military science team, recently announced that it has successfully tested the HAWC (Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon Concept) ultrasonic rocket.