SLOWER, PLEASE: China Takes Wraps Off National Hypersonic Plan.
The conference, which gave many Chinese researchers their first opportunity to display many years’ worth of research to a wider Western audience, underlined the nation’s impressive overall advances in all areas of high-speed flight research for defense, transport and space access. While progress in some specific defense areas—most notably the recent flight tests of the DF-ZF/WU-14 hypersonic glide vehicles—was not discussed, the progress indicated by the underlying research makes it readily apparent that China is making strides in hypersonic capability much faster than previously thought.
The scope of high-speed technology activity, added to evidence shown at the conference of large-scale government investment in comprehensive test facilities, appears to support recent assertions made in the U.S. that China is on track to quickly overtake America’s hard-won leadership in the field. The claim, made in 2016 by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and by think tanks such as the Arlington, Virginia-based Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, comes as both China and Russia conduct demonstration flights of air-breathing and boost-glide hypersonic weapon systems. Both nations are believed to be targeting 2020 for deployment of the first operational units.
This is extremely difficult stuff to do, and if China isn’t just blowing smoke, then we’re going to have to reassess their entire military aviation effort.