Asia Pacific

China working on hypersonic weapon targeting East Asia missile shields

Kyodo

China is developing hypersonic weapons with an eye to piercing the missile defense shields of Japan and East Asian neighbors, according to a magazine specializing in Chinese military affairs.

The so-called Rocket Force of China’s People’s Liberation Army has recently devised a hypersonic weapons development program in light of Japanese and Taiwanese missile defense systems, as well as South Korea’s planned deployment of a U.S. missile shield, according to the Canada-based Kanwa Defense Review.

Hypersonic weapons are next-generation maneuvering strike vehicles launched atop ballistic missiles that travel at speeds of up to Mach 10, or 10 times the speed of sound. They maneuver and glide along the edge of space, making them very difficult for missile defenses to shoot down.

The United States and Russia have also been aggressive about developing hypersonic strike capability. It is thought that Japan’s antimissile system could be made impotent if Beijing’s development of hypersonic weapons advances.

In Japan, the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile defense system has been deployed by the Air Self-Defense Force along with the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Aegis destroyers equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptors.

Taiwan has also deployed PAC-3 surface-to-air guided interceptors, while South Korea has decided to deploy the advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) antiballistic missile system on its soil to better cope with North Korea’s missile threats.

In addition to the Rocket Force’s program, Beijing has been developing hypersonic weapons through another route. A state-owned firm is engaged in the “089 Project” aimed at developing such weapons to be launched atop long-range ballistic missiles to breach the U.S. mainland missile defense shield.

U.S. media reported that China has conducted seven tests of a hypersonic glide missile in recent years, six of which have been successful. While Beijing has acknowledged such testing, it was previously unknown that it is also working on a short-range hypersonic weapons development program for East Asian targets.