China, India and Russia have supersonic cruise missiles and are nearing hypersonic cruise missiles

The Chaoxun-1 (CX-1) is a supersonic anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) built by a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), a major Chinese space and defense company. According to CASC, the CX-1 is a two-stage ASCM with a range of up to 280 km while carrying a 260-kilogram warhead. The missile also has a circular error probability of 20 meters, and high-altitude speeds of Mach 2.8-Mach 3.

India and Russia have Russian-made Novator 3M-54 Club supersonic terminal-stage ASCMs and Zvezda Kh-31 supersonic anti-radar/ship missiles. But China has also purchased or otherwise acquired the technology to produce its own versions, the larger and longer-range YJ-12, now in Chinese service, is based on Zvezda technology and the YJ-18 is believed to be a shorter range version of the 3M-54. So CASC’s CX-1 is likely China’s third “Russian” supersonic ASCM.

The BrahMos is a short range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land. It is a joint venture between the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) who have together formed BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited. It is based on the Russian P-800 Oniks cruise missile and other similar sea-skimming Russian cruise missile technology.

It is the world’s fastest cruise missile in operation. The missile travels at speeds of Mach 2.8 to 3.0.

The BrahMos and the CX-1 have superficial resemblance but have different propulsion systems.

BrahMos-II is a hypersonic cruise missile currently under joint development by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia. It is the second of the BrahMos series of cruise missiles. The BrahMos-II is expected to have a range of 290 kilometres (180 mi) and a speed of Mach 7 (8,575 km/h; 5,328 mph; 2.3820 km/s). During the cruise stage of flight the missile will be propelled by a scramjet airbreathing jet engine. It is expected to be ready for testing by 2017.

WU-14 is the Pentagon’s code name for a Chinese hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV).

China the third country after the Russian Federation and the United States to have successfully tested a hypersonic delivery vehicle able to carry nuclear warheads at a speed above Mach 10 – or 12,359 kilometers per hour (7,675 mph). China is also believed to be developing a hypersonic scramjet version that can be launched from air or ground.

On 7 August 2014, the WU-14 made its second test launch, which failed as it broke apart soon after launching. A third test was conducted in early December 2014, and was successful.

China’s DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is currently in development. With an estimated range of about 15,000km, it could potentially carry 10-12 Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicle (MIRV) nuclear warheads on an all terrain launch vehicle (making it very hard to locate). The DF-41 eventually could carry WU-14 derived HGVs that would provide China, for the first time, a precision strike capability that could hit any place in the world in under an hour.

The WU-14 uses a large rocket booster to fly into the boundary between space and Earth’s atmosphere, over 100km above the ground, before gliding in a relatively flat trajectory, at up to speeds of Mach 10 (7,620 miles per hour), to accurately hit strategic target, whether an aircraft carrier or command bunker. The flat trajectory of the WU-14 and other HGVs makes it harder for missile defense systems to defend against them. The WU-14 is likely to be carried by DF-21 intermediate range ballistic missiles in the short term, but HGVs boosted by ICBMs such as the DF-31A would have the range to strike at the continental U.S. The ability of Chinese HGVs to bypass existing U.S. defenses adds another layer of potency to the PLA’s Anti-Access/Area Denial toolkit.

SOURCES – Popular Science, Wikipedia, National Interest, Aviation Week, India Today