Vladimir Putin discusses ‘unparalleled partnership’ with China
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With both nations developing highly sophisticated weapons as the race continues to dominate the Indo-Pacific region, the move by China appears to be something the US has yet to match. The development of the weapon comes just four months after China denied reports that it has also tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile, claiming the projectile that had circled the entire planet was in fact a spacecraft. The heating-seeking capabilities have been confirmed by researchers from the National University of Defence Technology, which allows a hypersonic missile to search for, identify and lock on to a target based on its heat signature when flying at low altitudes where the air is thicker.
This means the missiles could hone in on targets including moving vehicles on the street with unprecedented accuracy and speed, according to research cited by South China Morning Post.
Boasting about the capability, Professor Yi Shihe wrote in a paper published in the Chinese Air and Space Defence Journal saying China has made “a series of core technology breakthroughs that were proven effective in tests.”
The professor added: “With effective hypersonic precision strike weapons, the critical value of ‘strategic depth’ in traditional warfare will no longer exist.”
He ended: “All the critical political, economic and military assets of a country will be at risk.”
The first generation of hypersonic weapons was designed to penetrate missile defence systems and hit fixed targets on the ground at five times the speed of sound or faster.
Although China and Russia had deployed some hypersonic missiles, a popular opinion elsewhere was that these weapons had little practical value unless a country wanted to start a nuclear war.
According to the US Air Force, about 90 percent of all the aircraft it has lost since the 1980s were shot down with heat-seeking missiles, and stealth fighters such as the F-22 could also be targets because their coating materials heat up easily in flight.
A Chinese military researcher told an academic conference in 2020 that a ground-to-air hypersonic missile could catch up with and destroy an F-22 in a matter of seconds if it fired a missile or dropped a bomb from close range.
The country’s hypersonic infrared missiles had already been used in a number of test flights – work that won Professor Yi’s team a top national award for military science and technology from the People’s Liberation Army.
The United States had previously been a world leader in heat sensing, according to Chinese scientists.
In the 1980s and 90s, the US government and military invested an enormous amount of resources in the development of high-speed infrared homing technology that was used to develop missile defence systems such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system.
However, these heat sensors worked only in thin air at high altitudes.
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Last February, the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency asked numerous defence contractors, including General Electric and Lockheed Martin, to develop infrared sensors for hypersonic missiles.
The development of such missiles does not end with China and the US.
Both Russia and North Korea have also developed such technology, with Russian President Vladimir Putin claiming he could strike targets within 5 minutes using the hypersonic arsenal he has.
With Russia and Ukraine on the verge of a conflict, President Joe Biden has held two rounds of talks with Mr Putin in an attempt to deflate the tense situation.
Russia has called on the US and its allies to deny Ukraine’s entry to NATO as a guarantee to defuse the crisis.
The race between the Chinese and the Americans is far from over and does not lie solely on a military front.
Both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mr Biden are also fighting to become the world’s largest economy, with many predicting that China will surpass the US as early as 2024.
All eyes will now be on the US response to the latest advancement in technology by Beijing.
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