China is winning the hypersonic weapons race and moving full speed ahead with plans to expand the range of these hard-to-hit weapons, an intelligence analyst said.

“China’s missile programs are comparable to those of major international producers, and China now has the world’s leading hypersonic arsenal,” said Jeffrey McCormick, a senior analyst at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, in a statement prepared for the House Armed Services Committee.

Hypersonic missiles travel at speeds of Mach 5 or faster, using advanced propulsion systems to maintain speed as they glide through the upper atmosphere. In addition to their speed, these missiles are mounted with highly maneuverable hypersonic glide vehicle payloads that can easily evade traditional missile defense systems.

China’s development of hypersonic “waverider” technology and thermal materials to increase weapons tolerance to the extreme heat that accompanies hypersonic speed represents the country’s advancement in offensive capabilities.

“China’s progress is the result of its efforts over the past two decades to dramatically improve its conventional and nuclear-armed hypersonic missile capabilities and technologies. This has been done through intense and focused investment, development, testing and now deliveries to [República Popular] Liberation Army]McCormick said Tuesday at the congressional hearing.

He said China’s “extensive and robust research and development infrastructure” has allowed the country to deploy medium-range missiles like the D-17, which put U.S. bases in Japan within its reach.

Over the past decade, China has made progress toward hypersonic intercontinental missiles, as demonstrated in 2021 when the country tested two that flew at least partially around the world.

McCormick warned that Beijing’s investments will allow it to have a vast arsenal of weapons in line with the “strong and modernized rocket force” called for in a 2019 defense white paper.

The hearing took place as Congress considers the national budget for the 2025 fiscal year.

The U.S. Department of Defense did not immediately respond to a written request for comment.

While China’s rapid military expansion has made it a near-peer rival to the United States, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s annual threat report released this week detailed the significant obstacles the country faces.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s years-long anti-corruption campaign, which last year resulted in the dismissal of several senior officials he appointed, is unlikely to address the root of the problem “due to the unparalleled power of senior party officials and to Xi’s insistence that the party apparatus has exclusive power to monitor and combat corruption,” the report said.

The ODNI also highlighted that China’s economic challenges — which include stagnant growth, low consumer confidence and a persistent debt crisis in its housing market — undermine public support for the government and therefore stability.

Meanwhile, the birth rate in China continues to fall, despite national and local policies encouraging child rearing. Coupled with the country’s rapidly aging workforce, this will pose problems for productivity and social well-being in the coming decades.

Via News Week


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