China tested two hypersonic weapons over summer, FT reports

Models of HD-1A air-based supersonic cruise missile system are displayed at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, China, on Sept 29, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China's military conducted two hypersonic weapons tests over the summer rather than the one test reported earlier, the Financial Times said, a development that could heighten worries in Washington about Beijing's advancing military capabilities.

China first tested a rocket using a "fractional orbital bombardment" system to launch a "hypersonic glide vehicle" capable of carrying nuclear weapons on July 27, and followed that up with a second hypersonic test on Aug 13, the newspaper reported late Wednesday (Oct 20), citing officials it didn't identify.

The FT had reported Saturday that China conducted a single hypersonic test.

The object, which the FT said missed its target by about two dozen miles after dropping from orbit, has raised concerns that US rivals may be able to eventually neutralise the Pentagon's missile defences.

The technology, once perfected, could conceivably be used to send nuclear warheads over the South Pole and around American anti-missile systems in the northern hemisphere.

On Monday, China disputed the FT's initial report about the test, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian saying the object launched into space was a reusable space vehicle like those advanced by private rocket companies like SpaceX.

The ministry declined further comment Tuesday.

The latest FT report said that the reusable space vehicle described by the Foreign Ministry was tested on July 16, before the other two launches.

If the hypersonic tests are eventually confirmed, it would sharpen rising worries in the West about China's rapidly modernising military technology, particularly its growing arsenal of missiles.

The tests could suggest President Xi Jinping may be exploring orbital strikes as a way to counter American advancements in shooting down ballistic missiles before they can threaten the US homeland.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.