Top U.S. general confirms ‘very concerning’ Chinese hypersonic weapons test
28 October, 2021, 1:10 pm
The top officer, General Mark Milley, has provided the first official U.S. confirmation of a Chinese hypersonic weapons test that military experts say appears to show Beijing’s pursuit of an Earth-orbiting system designed to evade American missile defenses.
The Pentagon has been at pains to avoid direct confirmation of the Chinese test this summer, first reported by the Financial Times, even as President Joe Biden and other officials have expressed general concerns about Chinese hypersonic weapons development.
“What we saw was a very significant event of a test of a hypersonic weapon system. And it is very concerning,” Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Bloomberg television, in an interview aired on Wednesday.
Second, sources tell Reuters that the United States believes China’s test involved a weapon that first orbited the Earth. That’s something military experts say is a Cold War concept known as “fractional orbital bombardment.”
“If you use that kind of an approach, you don’t have to use a traditional ICBM trajectory — which is directly from the point of launch to the point of impact,” he said.
Fractional Orbital Bombardment would also be a way for China to avoid U.S. missile defenses in Alaska, which are designed to combat a limited number of weapons from a country like North Korea.
Lewis said the difference is that the Chinese re-entry system is a glider.
U.S. defenses are not capable of combating a large-scale attack from China or Russia, which could overwhelm the system.
But the open U.S. pursuit of more and more advanced missile defenses has led Moscow and Beijing to examine ways to defeat them, experts say, including hypersonics and, apparently, fractional orbital bombardment.