As tensions rise between China and the US, and the race for hypersonic weapons heats up, the Chinese Communist Party’s daily tabloid newspaper Global Times is reporting “record-breaking progress” has been made in scramjet technology to power its hypersonic weapons.
Researchers at the Institute of Mechanics under the Chinese Academy of Science developed and tested new scramjet technology that resulted in a ground test that lasted 600 seconds (considered a “technological breakthrough”). Now, this far outpaced the world record of 210 seconds set by Boeing’s X-51 Waverider using experimental scramjet technology to achieve hypersonic flight.
A scramjet (supersonic-combustion ramjet) is a ramjet engine in which the airflow through the engine remains supersonic. Global Times notes that developing such an engine that can operate for an extended period remains challenging because advanced heat resistant materials and cooling of the engine are needed for March 5 (>3,800 mph).
Beijing officially debuted its DF-17 hypersonic missile at the National Day military parade in October 2019.
Following half-dozen development tests between 2014-2016, the hypersonic weapon was recently tested at Jiuquan Space Launcher Center in Inner Mongolia in 2017. Testing has shown the DF-17 can fly at hypersonic speeds and evade existing missile defense systems, such as America’s anti-ballistic missile defense system called: Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) — it becomes entirely evident the weapon was produced as a deterrent against the US.
This weapon is China’s first medium-range ballistic missile with a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) as its payload.
The US intelligence community has warned about the regional instabilities that could develop as it appears the weapon is now operational.
The Pentagon recently sounded the alarm on the proliferation of hypersonic technological advances that are being made around the world [mainly in China and Russia].
“Although hypersonic glide vehicles and missiles flying non-ballistic trajectories were first proposed as far back as World War II, technological advances are only now making these systems practicable,” Vice Admiral James Syring, director of the US Missile Defense Agency, said in June 2019, during testimony before the US House Armed Services Committee.
China’s drive for hypersonic weapons comes as an internal report presented to Chinese President Xi Jinping last month suggest that global anti-China sentiment could be the precursor for a worst-case scenario of armed conflict with the US.
Tensions between both superpowers started to deteriorate after the Trump administration blamed China for the virus pandemic that has left more than 100,000 Americans dead, and its economy crashed with tens of millions of people unemployed, now transforming into widespread social unrest across every major US metro.
It has become a fact that hypersonic weapons will be a critical technology for the next global conflict, and at the moment it appears China and or Russia have the upper hand in hypersonic development.