The “DF-ZF” glider can travel at speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 10, which is 5 to 10 times the speed of sound.
Pentagon officials also confirmed China successfully flight tested its new high-speed maneuvering warhead last week, days after Russia carried out its own hypersonic glider test.
The test of the developmental DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle was monitored after launch Friday atop a ballistic missile fired from the Wuzhai missile launch center in central China, said officials familiar with reports of the test.
The maneuvering glider, traveling at several thousand miles per hour, was tracked by satellites as it flew west along the edge of the atmosphere to an impact area in the western part of the country.
It was the seventh successful flight test of the revolutionary glider, which travels at speeds between 4,000 and 7,000 miles per hour.
From a purely technical perspective, boost-glide weapons would offer certain unique attributes to military planners. [Science and Global Security: The Technical Basis for Arms Control, Disarmament, and Nonproliferation Initiatives, Hypersonic Boost-Glide Weapons] Their speed is unmatched by any other kinetic weapon, except for ballistic missiles. And, compared to ballistic missiles, boost-glide weapons have potentially longer ranges, can generally transport a heavier payload over a given range, are capable of midcourse maneuvering, and fly at lower altitudes. Understanding whether these attributes would be likely to provide a significant military advantage and, ultimately, whether the benefits of boost-glide weapons would outweigh their costs and risks raises a complex series of technical and policy questions.
* boost-glide roughly doubles the range over the purely ballistic trajectory.
* In contrast to these maneuvering warhead concepts, there has been growing interest in the traditional boost-glide concept not to extend range per se, but to allow it to reach a given range while flying at a much lower altitude. The goal in this case is to keep the reentry vehicle below radar coverage until it enters the terminal phase.
U.S. intelligence officials have assessed that China plans to use the glider to deliver nuclear weapons through increasingly sophisticated missile defenses. The DF-ZF also could be used as part of a conventional strategic strike weapon capable of hitting targets around the world within an hour.
The congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated in its most recent annual report that the hypersonic glide vehicle program was “progressing rapidly” and that the new strike weapon could be deployed by 2020.
A powered version also is in development and could be fielded by 2025.
The test firing of the hypersonic glider took place Tuesday and involved the launch of an SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missile from eastern Russia, said officials familiar with details of the test.
Russia’s state-run Interfax news agency confirmed the test on Thursday.
SOURCES – freebeacon, interfax, people’s daily online