China will make major new investments to develop hypersonic missiles, drones and planes

China plans to make major new investments to develop hypersonic technology. China will build new test facilities. China has had rapid rise in hypersonics with the most successful hypersonic missile tests of any country.

In 2016, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation began advanced research on hybrid combined cycle engines that can takeoff from an airport’s landing strip and fly straight into orbit. The hybrid space plane’s combined cycle engines would use turbofan or turbojet engines to takeoff horizontally from a landing strip. Once airborne, the engine then shifts to ramjet propulsion and, as speed increases, adjusts into a scramjet engine with supersonic airflow. At the scramjet stage, the hybrid spaceplane would enter hypersonic flight in ‘near space’, the part of the atmosphere between 20km to 100km above sea level. Finally, the hybrid spaceplane would use its rocket motors to push out of near space and into orbit.

Zhang Yong, a CASTC engineer, claimed that China will master the spaceplane’s technologies in the next four years, and a full-scale spaceplane would then enter service by 2030.

CASTC’s rapid research timeline suggests that the reports in 2015 of a Mach 4 test flight for a recoverable drone testbed for a combined cycle ramjet/turbofan engine were accurate. And China also has the world’s largest hypersonic wind tunnel, the Mach 9 JF-12, which could be used to easily test hypersonic scramjets without costly and potentially dangerous flight testing at altitude

The US Air Force and DARPA plan to have an improved hypersonic air vehicle by 2023.

* hypersonic weapons likely to be operational in the mid-2020s
* unmanned hypersonic spyplanes in 2030s
* recoverable hypersonic drones in the 2040s

Hypersonic weapons will be able to reach speeds of Mach 5 to Mach 10.

The US Air Force roadmap to hypersonic technology.

The US Air Force roadmap to for autonomy.