China takes lead in hypersonic arms race as US, Russia & NK battle for 21,000mph nukes that can hit anywhere in MINUTES

CHINA appears to have taken a shock lead in the hypersonic arms race as the world's powers battle it out for the next generation of devastating nuclear weapons.

Revelations that Beijing flew a nuclear-capable missile around the world throws down a gauntlet to the other nations chasing hypersonics, the US, Russia and North Korea.

US intelligence and military officials were reportedly left stunned after China launched a rocket in space carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle which circled the globe before before speeding towards its target.

The next generation of weapons can hit speeds of up to 21,000mph – and potentially even faster – and are seen as devastating new frontier for warfare.

Hypersonic missiles are a game changer because unlike ballistic missiles, which fly into space before returning on steep trajectories, they zoom in on targets at lower altitudes.

This combined with typical speeds of five times the speed of sound – or around 4,000mph – makes them extremely hard to shoot down and a potent weapon more countries want to get their hands on.

China -followed closely by Russia – were already regarded as having the most potent hypersonic missile arsenals pouring billions into them but others had been seen as catching up.

But the shocking revelations of their missile test back in August has sent shockwaves through Western intelligence who fear they actually underestimated Beijing.

US intelligence and military officials were reportedly left stunned after China launched a rocket in space carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle which circled the globe before before speeding towards its target.

Circling the globe, it shows the weapon potentially has a range of some 25,000 miles and can operate in space.

It means the missile can theoretically hit anywhere on Earth.

The nuke-capable missile however missed its target by about two-dozen miles when it was secretly launched, intelligence sources told the Financial Times.

But the chilling test has alarmed US officials and shows how China has made astonishing progress on the development of its hypersonic weapons, sources said.

"We have no idea how they did this," an intel;ligence source said.

Taylor Fravel, an expert on Chinese nuclear weapons policy, said a hypersonic glide vehicle armed with a nuclear warhead could help China "negate" US missile defence systems.

Fravel said: "Hypersonic glide vehicles… fly at lower trajectories and can manoeuvre in flight, which makes them hard to track and destroy."

He warned it would be "destabilising" if China fully developed and deployed such a weapon.

And the revelations come as China and the US have been warned to the be flirting with the risk of war as they continue to row over Taiwan.

It follows North Korea's announcement that it had joined the hypersonic club at the end of September, withh Kim Jong-un’s regime said that it had launched a missile named the Hwasong-8.

North Korea’s news agency said its development of the weapons increases North Korea's defence capabilities a “thousand fold”.

And the firing of Kim's missiles camejust a day after it was announced US tested its own hypersonic weapon.

The free flight test of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept occurred last week, said the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

Unlike the public shows made by its rivals, the US has shrouded the test in secrecy with details like its range kept under wraps.

"Investments in hypersonic strike have begun to pay dividends, answering the progress already made by the likes of Russia and China," said Tom Karako, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

A key part of the hypersonic missile concept is the glide vehicle, which is carried to around 30 miles above the earth by a rocket but then becomes detached.


The glide vehicle then hurtles to earth using gravity.

Earlier this year, the Russian military announced it had tested a hypersonic missile it claimed was capable of evading all Western defences.

The deadly Zircon was unleashed at a speed of Mach 7 at a land target from the frigate Admiral Gorshkov in the White Sea off the northwest coast of Russia.

The Zircon has been identified by Moscow’s state-controlled TV as Putin’s weapon of choice to wipe out coastal American cities in the event of a nuclear conflict. 

The Kremlin also has in its armoury the 21,000mph Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which it reportedly brought into service in 2019.

China alone has ploughed an extra £151billion into military spending this year – a 6.8 per cent increase – as it seeks to extend its claim over territory in the South China Sea.

Its spending spree comes amid fears of an arms race among Asian powers as the world heads towards a new Cold War.


Among its hypersonic missiles is the DF-26, which state media boasted can reach a top speed of 18 times faster than the speed of sound.

It is capable of travelling far enough to blitz the US territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean.

The missile can carry conventional or nuclear warheads, and one variant is said to be able to take out carrier groups in the open ocean.

China also announced it's developing a hypersonic weapon designed to generate an intense electromagnetic pulse that would wipe out communication and power supply lines.

The missile, which has a range of 2,000 miles and can travel at six times the speed of sound, is designed to create a chemical explosion over a city and cripple it within seconds. 

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