27 January 2014

U.S. Navy Sees Chinese HGV as Part of Wider Threat

Bradley Perrett, Bill Sweetman, and Michael Fabey, U.S. Navy Sees Chinese HGV as Part of Wider Threat,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, 27 January 2014.

In the view of the U.S. Navy, the Mach 10 test of a hypersonic glide vehicle that China conducted on Jan. 9 reflects its predictions of future warfare. If and when China can put the technology into service, Beijing will have a weapon that challenges defenses and extends the range of its ballistic missiles against land and sea targets, but its offensive application is still some years away and depends on solving tough challenges in targeting and guidance.

The hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) test appears to mark a step beyond China’s anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) program, featuring a slower, shorter-range maneuverable reentry vehicle (RV)—and may point to a second-generation ASBM.

To some analysts, the test underscores the need for the U.S. to field directed-energy weapons, since interceptor missiles may be unable to handle targets that appear with little warning and then maneuver at speeds above Mach 5. The U.S. is developing directed-energy weapons, but it is not clear when they will be needed or available.

China’s HGV, called WU-14 by the Pentagon, was launched into space by an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) booster, after which it returned to the atmosphere to glide at up to Mach 10. The test was conducted within China, says the defense ministry in Beijing. On Jan. 19, another object was test-launched from the same space base at Taiyuan, says analyst Richard Fisher of the Washington-based International Assessment and Strategy Center. The Jan. 9 test was first detailed by Bill Gertz of the Washington Free Beacon.