China also working to add hypersonic warheads to shorter range missiles

China has conducted seven tests of a hypersonic glide missile in recent years, six of which have been successful. While Beijing has acknowledged such testing, it was previously unknown that it is also working on a short-range hypersonic weapons development program for East Asian targets.

Hypersonic weapons are next-generation maneuvering strike vehicles launched atop ballistic missiles that travel at speeds of up to Mach 10, or 10 times the speed of sound. They maneuver and glide along the edge of space, making them very difficult for missile defenses to shoot down.

The United States and Russia have also been aggressive about developing hypersonic strike capability. It is thought that Japan’s antimissile system could be made impotent if Beijing’s development of hypersonic weapons advances.

In Japan, the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile defense system has been deployed by the Air Self-Defense Force along with the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Aegis destroyers equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptors.

Taiwan has also deployed PAC-3 surface-to-air guided interceptors, while South Korea has decided to deploy the advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) antiballistic missile system on its soil to better cope with North Korea’s missile threats.

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