China's 'Around the World' Missile Test Raises Alarms

'They look like a first-use weapon,' Gen. John Hyten says of hypersonic missile
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 18, 2021 10:15 AM CST
China's 'Around the World' Missile Test Raises Alarms
An illustration of a hypersonic glide vehicle by HTNP Industries.   (Wikimedia Commons/Saurav Chaudhari)

The second-highest figure in the US military says a hypersonic missile China tested in July "went around the world," raising the possibility of a surprise nuclear attack on the US. "They launched a long-range missile. It went around the world, dropped off a hypersonic glide vehicle that glided all the way back to China, that impacted a target in China," Gen. John Hyten, the outgoing vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CBS News in an interview shared Tuesday. Asked if the missile hit the target, Hyten replied, "Close enough." The Financial Times reported on the test last month, noting the missile launched from a rocket in low-orbit space "missed its target by about two dozen miles."

The outlet quoted Gen. Glen VanHerck, head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, as telling a conference in August that China had "recently demonstrated very advanced hypersonic glide vehicle capabilities" that would "provide significant challenges to my NORAD capability to provide threat warning and attack assessment." (China issued a denial.) Flying at five times the speed of sound, hypersonic missiles are slower than ballistic missiles but can change trajectory on their way to a target, making them more difficult to track, per Foreign Policy. "Why are they building all of this capability?" Hyten asked, per CBS. "They look like a first-use weapon. That's what those weapons look like to me."

"From a technology perspective, it's pretty impressive," Hyten added, noting the US is still years away from fielding its first hypersonic weapon. Russia, China, and North Korea are all reportedly testing hypersonic missiles, which aren't limited by international treaties, per Foreign Policy. Unlike those countries, the US has no designs to put nuclear warheads on the missiles, the outlet adds. This follows a report from the Pentagon that found China was expanding its nuclear arsenal at a much faster pace than initially suspected, and may be on track to have 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030. The US currently has 3,750 nuclear warheads, per CNN. (More China stories.)

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