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Hypersonic Missiles and Global Security

Indian-Russian “BrahMos”-type missiles. Image: Mubeenk02/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by The Diplomat on 13 November, 2015.

Between 2014 and June 2015, China conducted four major tests of its hypersonic missiles (with a fifth test in August). The fourth test of Wu-14, its ultra high-speed nuclear delivery vehicle, demonstrated a capacity for “extreme maneuvers.” It was assessed as travelling at a speed of Mach 10 (flying at 10 times the speed of sound or approximately 7,680 miles per hour). To understand this in comparative terms, a missile flying at subsonic speed can reach a maximum of 500-600 miles per hour.

To qualify as “hypersonic,” a missile would have to move at least five times the speed of sound (Mach 5), as well as be able to evade counter-fire and strike with great precision. To date, no country has achieved this performance but several nations are working on it. » More