China's reported hypersonic missile test "an important surprise" for U.S.
BY RAMY INOCENCIO
OCTOBER 19, 2021 / 8:29 AM / CBS NEWS
Hong Kong — China is shooting down a report claiming it successfully
tested an advanced weapon known as a hypersonic missile. Beijing
described the launch as a "routine" test of a reusable space vehicle,
but Washington insiders say that if China really has successfully tested
hypersonic missile technology, the U.S. is simply not ready to contend
with the threat that poses.
Hypersonic rockets travel at least five times the speed of sound, and
they can fly much lower to the ground than conventional ballistic
missiles. That makes them much harder to trace, and thus much harder to
The last time the world saw China's arsenal of hypersonic missiles was
in 2019, as the Communist Party put its latest technology on display in
a huge military parade through central Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
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DF-17 Dongfeng medium-range ballistic missiles equipped with DF-ZF
hypersonic glide vehicles are seen in a military parade to mark the 70th
anniversary of the Chinese People's Republic, in Beijing, China, October
The report in The Financial Times over the weekend claimed that China
launched a hypersonic missile over the summer, which it said circled the
globe before landing about 25 miles from its intended target.
Retired U.S. Admiral James "Sandy" Winnefeld, a former vice chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the apparent Chinese test "an
important surprise" for American, "because it demonstrates the
capability to have a very long-reach hypersonic weapon that could cause
a lot of damage without us being able to do anything about it."
On Monday, Beijing responded to the newspaper report, with Foreign
Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian telling reporters it was "not a missile"
but rather "a space vehicle" used in a "routine test" as China develops
technology to lower the cost of future space travel.
But China has continued to build-up its military capabilities. The
country already boasts the world's largest standing military force, and
it hasn't been shy about throwing that weight around — the record 149
military flight incursions into Taiwan's air defense zone this month
being the most recent example.
In a "60 Minutes" interview over the weekend, Anderson Cooper asked
former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about China's military
expansion, and the potential for a Chinese invasion of democratically
"There are two strategies that we need to focus on," Gates told Cooper.
"One is deterrence — strengthening our own military presence in the
region, and the second piece of the strategy is to strengthen Taiwan's
ability to defend itself."
Only the top levels of China's leadership may know if the country really
carried out a successful test flight of a hypersonic missile — or "space
The U.S. and Russia have also been testing their own hypersonics, but if
the Financial Times report is accurate, that would imply that China has
taken the lead in the hypersonic arms race.
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