China's DF-17 missile is a medium-range hypersonic weapon capable of traveling over five times the speed of sound.
/ April 17, 2022
In July of last year, China tested the longest-range land attack weapon in its arsenal, a hypersonic missile that is part of the communist nation’s pursuit of dominance in space warfare capabilities.
The July 27, 2021 launch of a Chinese ICBM tipped with a hypersonic glide vehicle — an ultra-high-speed, maneuvering missile — is known as a fractional orbital launch. The glide vehicle traveled around 24,800 miles in space before re-entering the atmosphere and successfully striking a ground target.
The flight test lasted more than 100 minutes, making it “the greatest distance flown and longest flight time of any Chinese land attack weapons system to date,” according to a new U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report on space threats released on April 12.
The hypersonic missile represents just one element of the space weaponry built and deployed by China and Russia aimed at attacking satellites used by the U.S. military for communications and precision-guided missiles, the report said.
In contrast, the newly created U.S. Space Force has but one single declared weapon: an electronic jammer. The Space Force boasts no known anti-satellite missiles.
“Space Force counterspace weapons development remain classified and are said to be hampered by opposition from arms control advocates who oppose accelerating the arms race in space,” security correspondent Bill Gertz noted in a Washington Times report.
Despite their own advanced space warfare capabilities, both China and Russia are promoting arms control initiatives aimed at limiting U.S. space warfare capabilities, the report said.
It was Joint Chiefs of Staff head Gen. Mark Milley who last fall memorably called the Chinese hypersonic test “very close to a Sputnik moment.”
“The loss of space-based communication and navigation services could have a devastating impact on warfighters during a conflict — that’s one of the most serious scenarios anticipated,” DIA Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier said in releasing the report on April 12.
“A secure, stable and accessible space domain is crucial as China and Russia’s space-based capabilities and electronic-warfare activities continue to grow,” Gen. Berrier added.
Space-based electronic systems are used in homes, transportation networks, the electrical grid, banking systems and for conducting military operations around the world, the report said.
“Adversaries have observed more than 30 years of U.S. military operations supported by space systems and are now seeking ways to expand their own capabilities and deny the U.S. a space-enabled advantage,” the report said.
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