China’s new mach 6 hypersonic missile has over twice the range of best US air to air missile and new drones could create a stealth plane targeting network

A Chinese J-16 strike fighter recently test-fired a mach 6 hypersonic missiles to successfully destroying the target drone at a very long range. The hypersonic missile has a range of between 200-310 miles.

The U.S. military’s own longest-range air-to-air missile, the AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile. The AMRAAM is just 12 feet long and seven inches in diameter. The latest version of the American missile, the AIM-120D, reportedly boasts a maximum range in excess of 90 miles.

Launched by a fighter flying as high as 50,000 feet, the Chinese missile could climb to an altitude of around 100,000 feet and glide in the thin air for more than a hundred miles before descending to strike its target 

Beijing’s VLRAAM reportedly features an active electronically-scanned array seeker with optical back-up and mid-course satellite guidance — truly state of the art for an air-to-air missile. The AIM-120D makes do with an older-style, and less effective, mechanically-steered radar.

VLRAAM missile on J-16

The Chinese military is apparently working on a solution to the identification problem, and has proposed building a targeting network around the high-flying Divine Eagle sensor drone. A Divine Eagle could pass targeting data to a VLRAAM-armed fighter — and potentially even to the missile itself, provided any operational version of the munition incorporates a datalink.

Divine eagle drones

The Divine Eagle is a low observable, high altitude UAV meant detect stealth aircraft at long ranges, using special purpose radars.

China’s giant UAV has been getting a lots of international attention. With its giant, double bodied design, carrying high performance anti-stealth radars, the drones are a potential key part of China’s offensive and defensive military strategy in the coming years. Formations of Divine Eagle UAVs are expected to provide an early warning line to detect threats to China’s airspace, like cruise missiles and stealth bombers, as well as be able to take on such missions as hunting for aircraft carriers in the open waters of the Pacific.

By using the single deck bus in the background (probably 3.2 meters tall, like most buses of its type) as a very crude visual yardstick, a very rough comparison suggests that the Divine Eagle is about 6 meters tall, and 15 meters long (since most high altitude large UAVs have a wingspan to body length ratio of 2.5:1 to 3:1, the wingspan of the Divine Eagle is likely its be 35 to 45 meters across). With a maximum take off weight of at least 15 tons, the Divine Eagle is the world’s largest UAV, edging out the RQ-4 Global Hawk.