WASHINGTON: A purported hypersonic missile test by China is causing hypertension in Washington with alarm bells ringing about Beijing surging ahead of the US not just in economic clout but also in terms of “stolen” technological prowess.
The test, which took place in August but details of which are only just emerging, reportedly involved a nuclear-capable missile that circled the globe in a glide system before descending towards its target, which it missed by 24 miles.
Experts say mastery of such a hypersonic glide system in a low orbit would enable China to evade US anti-ballistic missile defences that are geared to intercept ICBMs traveling in an arched trajectory, looping into space before falling back to earth and detonating above their intended targets.
The hypersonic missile, in contrast, flies low in the atmosphere and can be repositioned in flight, making it difficult to calculate where it will land and therefore hard to intercept.
Although only a partial success, reports of Chinese advances with the technology caused some US lawmakers to go ballistic.
“If we stick to our current complacent course–or place our hopes in bankrupt buzzwords like ‘integrated deterrence’–we will lose the New Cold War with Communist China within the decade. The People’s Liberation Army now has an increasingly credible capability to undermine our missile defenses and threaten the American homeland with both conventional and nuclear strikes,” Mike Gallagher, a Republican member of the US armed services committee, warned over the weekend.
Gallagher directed his ire at lax oversight of US technology exports which he said had propelled the Chinese program.
According to some accounts, a Chinese firm called Phytium Technology with ties to the Chinese military used American software and precision machinery to built the world’s most advanced chip factory in Taiwan. Supercomputers using chips from this facility were reportedly used to simulate metrics associated with the hypersonic advances.
Beijing itself maintained radio silence on the test but after it was reported in the Financial Times, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman claimed it was a “routine test” of a new civilian spacecraft, the launch of which was of “great significance for reducing the use-cost of spacecraft and could provide a convenient and affordable way to make a round trip for mankind’s peaceful use of space.”
But Beijing’s mouthpiece Global Times gloated about the advance, saying the test means “there is a key new member in China’s nuclear deterrence system,” and this is a “new blow to the US’s mentality of strategic superiority over China.”
“It is important to note the unstoppable trend that China is narrowing the gap with US in some key military technologies by continuously developing its economic and technological strength,” the Global Times said in an editorial, adding, “China doesn’t need to engage in an ‘arms race’ with the US – it is capable of weakening the US’ overall advantages over China by developing military power at its own pace.”
The US response so far: Was robbed
“Phytium is just the beginning. The US government has long failed to apply maximum pressure against the Chinese Communist Party’s Military-Civil Fusion strategy. We must end joint ventures, investments, and research collaborations that involve areas associated with Military-Civil Fusion. We also need to stop the flow of Wall Street capital into Chinese tech,” Congressman Gallagher said.
“American entities have a clear choice: they can side with our country, or they can side with the genocidal communist regime that now threatens our cities. They can’t do both. It is time to choose,” he added.