Monday, June 15, 2015

• China 'conducts fourth hypersonic missile test' as tensions with US mount over contested South China Sea islands - LOULLA-MAE ELEFTHERIOU-SMITH


China conducted its fourth hypersonic missile test last week, according to reports, in a move that has been dubbed an “extreme manoeuvre” by the US.
The Washington Free Beacon has reported that China’s defence ministry confirmed on Friday that it had carried out a fourth test of a new hypersonic strike vehicle last week.



“The scheduled scientific research and experiments in our territory are normal, and those tests are not targeted at any country and specific goals,” the ministry told the publication.

The US Pentagon has called the hypersonic glide vehicle ‘Wu-14’ - which can reportedly travel up to 10 times the speed of sound - and said last week’s test carried out in Western China involved “extreme manoeuvres” from the weapon.




A hypersonic weapon could look similar to this Falcon HTV-2The South China Morning Post reported that the test was the fourth to be carried out in the space of 18 months, and took place the day before China’s central military commission vice-chairman Fan Changlong embarked on a visit to the US.

He is expected to have discussed concerns over the disputed islands in the South China Sea with US defence secretary Ash Carter, according to state media.

Tensions have been rising between the US and China over the contested islands, and a defence policy specialist told the South China Morning Post the test was likely a response to the US publicising a surveillance flight over the area last month.
China's territorial disputes1 of 5


 

Professor He Qisong, at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, told the newspaper: “The Wu14… is designedto penetrate US missile defence systems, meaning the People’s Liberation Army is capable of defending China’s territorial sovereignty.

“But such a test is only a nuclear deterrence. Neither China nor the US wants to declare war over the South China Sea issues,” he said.





China all but confirmed it tested its hypersonic missile delivery vehicle a fourth time.

On Friday, China’s Defense Ministry seemed to confirm U.S. reports that Beijing tested its Wu-14 hypersonic vehicle on Sunday, June 7. Responding to an inquiryby the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, China’s Defense Ministry said, “The scheduled scientific research and experiments in our territory is normal, and those tests are not targeted at any country and specific goals.”

The statement was eerily similar to the one China’s Defense Ministry issued following the January 2014 test of the Wu-14. At that time, the defense ministry said: “It is normal for China to conduct scientific experiments within its borders according to its plans. The tests were not aimed at any nation nor any specific target.”

Last week’s test was the fourth one China has conducted in just 18 months, suggesting it is a priority of China’s military. The Wu-14, which can carry nuclear or conventional warheads, can travel at ten times the speed of sound, or 7,680 miles per hour. Its maneuverability enables it to bypass U.S. missile defense systems.

This point was underscored by He Qisong, a defense expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. Speaking to the SCMP, He said that “The Wu-14 … is designed to penetrate US missile defence systems, meaning the PLA is capable of defending China's territorial sovereignty."

He added: "But such a test is only a nuclear deterrence. Neither China nor the U.S. wants to declare war over the South China Sea issues."

Richard Fisher, an expert on China’s military, has previously explained that “The beauty of the HGV [hypersonic glide vehicle] is that it can perform hypersonic precision strikes while maintaining a relatively low altitude and flat trajectory, making it far less vulnerable to missile defenses.”

Unlike the previous three tests, Bill Gertz's report on last week’s test said that the Wu-14 practiced “extreme maneuvers” designed to evade U.S. missile defense systems, which are only capable of destroying missiles that use predictable ballistic trajectories. Thus, the Wu-14, when officially fielded, will be a huge to boost to China, which has a small nuclear arsenal compared with the United States and Russia.

China has been improving its strategic deterrent in other ways in recent years. For example, the People’s Liberation Army Navy is using a new ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), the Type 094, to conduct deterrent patrols for the first time. In April of this year, Admiral Samuel Locklear, the then-Commander of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), said that the PLAN currently has three Type 094 SSBNs and could field eight of them by the end of the decade.

China is not the only country developing hypersonic capabilities. It is also believed that the United States, Russia and India are also pursuing these capabilities. Regarding America’s hypersonic capabilities, Robert Farley has previously explained on The National Interest:

“The United States is working on the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon, a long-range, land-based glide vehicle that operates within the atmosphere in order to avoid the appearance of a ballistic missile. The United States has also done work on the X-51 “Waverider,” an air-launched, scramjet-powered vehicle capable of Mach 6.”

The fourth test of the Wu-14 hypersonic vehicle came just a day before Fan Changlong, a vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, began an extended trip to the United States where he has met with the likes of Ashton Carter and Susan Rice. It also comes as tensions grow in the South China Sea in response to Beijing’s massive land reclamation projects.

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An artistic rendering of a hypersonic aircraft / AP
China Confirms Hypersonic Missile Test
Defense Ministry says weapon not directed at U.S
Bill Gertz - June 13, 2015 2:29 pm

China’s defense ministry on Friday confirmed a fourth test of a new hypersonic strike vehicle was carried out last week.

“The scheduled scientific research and experiments in our territory [are] normal, and those tests are not targeted at any country and specific goals,” said the ministry in response to a report of the test published Thursday by the Washington Free Beacon.

U.S. defense officials disclosed the latest test of what the Pentagon calls the Wu-14 hypersonic glide vehicle and said the most recent test, conducted June 7 in western China, involved extreme maneuvers by the high-speed strike weapon.

The advanced strategic strike weapon travels at speed of up to 10 times the speed of sound, or more than 7,600 miles per hour.

The Wu-14 test was carried out amid heightened tensions between the United States and China over Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

The test also took place days before a top Chinese military leader, Gen. Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, met senior U.S. officials in Washington.

Defense Secretary Ash Cater met Fan at the Pentagon on Friday and discussed China’s island building in the South China Sea.

Carter reiterated U.S. concerns on the South China Sea, and called on China and all claimants to implement a lasting halt on land reclamation, cease further militarization, and pursue a peaceful resolution of territorial disputes in accordance with international law,” the Pentagon said in a statement on the meeting.

Critics in Congress said Fan should not be allowed to visit the United States in light of recent reports of the Chinese military’s hacking of U.S. government computer networks, and the aggression in the South China Sea.

Chinese analysts said the Wu-14 test, launched atop a ballistic missile, was timed to the Fan visit as a way to express China’s displeasure with U.S. opposition to Chinese island-building in disputed waters of the South China Sea, the South China Morning Post reported.

“The test is aimed at helping Fan increase the People’s Liberation Army’s bargaining power on the negotiation table when he deals with his U.S. counterpart,” Macau-based military analyst Antony Wong Dong told the Hong Kong daily.

Another Chinese analyst, He Qisong of Shanghai University, said the hypersonic glide vehicle test was a political message in response to the flight of a U.S. P-8 surveillance aircraft two week ago over the South China Sea.

“The Wu-14 … is designed to penetrate US missile defense systems, meaning the PLA is capable of defending China’s territorial sovereignty,” he said. “But such a test is only a nuclear deterrence. Neither China nor the U.S. wants to declare war over the South China Sea issues.”

The June 7 Wu-14 test was the fourth time China tested the ultra-high-speed maneuvering weapon. Earlier tests took place in 2014 on Jan. 9, Aug. 7, and Dec. 2.

The Washington Free Beacon first reported the tests.

U.S. intelligence has assessed the Wu-14 to be a nuclear delivery vehicle designed to defeat U.S. missile defenses, which currently are designed to counter ballistic missiles and warheads that have predictable trajectories.

Current U.S. missile defenses are not capable of countering maneuvering targets, such as the Wu-14. The U.S. government insists that its missile defenses are not designed to counter Chinese or Russian strategic missiles.

The Wu-14 can travel up to 10 times the speed of sound, or around 7,680 miles per hour.

A congressional China commission stated in a report published last fall that “hypersonic glide vehicles could render existing U.S. missile defense systems less effective and potentially obsolete.”

China also is developing a hypersonic weapon that employs a high-technology scramjet engine.

The Pentagon has said its main counter to such maneuvering high-speed missiles is an extended-range version of the Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile defense system.

The House version of fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill would add $291 million for the advanced THAAD development to counter hypersonic threats.


The Chinese have announced that they have successfully tested a hypersonic nuclear-capable delivery system.

The Chinese Defense Ministry tested the hypersonic glide vehicle (dubbed “Wu-14″ by the Pentagon) on June 7th, which is capable of traveling at 12,000 kilometers per hour – 10 times the speed of sound.According to reports, during the latest test, the missile successfully carried out maneuvers showing its capability to penetrate missile defense systems.

The US’s current missile defense systems are only capable of countering ballistic missiles with predictable trajectories, unlike those of Wu-14.

According to a report in the US-based online paper the Washington Free Beacon, US intelligence officials have described the tests as “extreme maneuvers.”

“The Wu-14 … is designed to penetrate US missile defense systems, meaning the PLA (People Liberation Army) is capable of defending China’s territorial sovereignty,” RT quoted a defense policy specialist at the Shanghai University, Professor He Qisong, as saying.

China’s Defense Ministry has denied such allegations saying that “The scheduled scientific research and experiments in our territory is normal, and those tests are not targeted at any country and specific goals.”