Chinese Hypersonic Missile Engine Triples US Duration Record

A team led by Fan Xuejun at the Institute of Mechanics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences has developed a type of scramjet that ran continuously for 600 seconds in a ground test, Weihutang, a program on military affairs affiliated with state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), reported on over the weekend. This broke the world record of 210 seconds set by the US’ X-51 aircraft.

Hypersonic missiles and vehicles are capable of flying faster than 5 times the speed of sound. Rockets can fly over 25 times the speed of sound. However, hypersonic missiles can be smaller and able to have better control of their flight. A longer duration engine would enable a hypersonic weapon to have longer powered flight. Ten minutes at mach 5 would be about 700 miles of range. Ten minutes at mach 10 would be about 1400 miles of range.

Hypersonic missiles are very difficult to make. The scramjets only operate at over 4 times the speed of sound or faster. This has meant using other propulsion to reach speed. As they lack mechanical compressors, scramjets require the high kinetic energy of a hypersonic flow to compress the incoming air to operational conditions. This is usually done with a turbojet, railgun, or rocket engines.

The Russians and Chinese have used rocket engine first stages to boost hypersonic warheads.

The work could lead to a more advanced hypersonic cruise missile than China’s current DF-17 hypersonic glide-boost missile.

The US has hypersonic missiles in development. Russia has deployed some hypersonic missiles. On 27 December 2019, the first Russian missile regiment armed with the Avangard HGV officially entered combat duty. According to open-source analysis by Jane’s, Avangard is a pure glide vehicle without an independent propulsion system. When approaching a target, the glider is capable of sharp high speed horizontal and vertical evasive maneuvers in flight.

China has the DF-ZF (aka WU-14). It is a hypersonic missile delivery vehicle. The system is operational in 2019. The DF-ZF is thought to reach speeds between Mach 5 (3,836 mph (6,173 km/h; 1,715 m/s)) and Mach 10 (7,680 mph (12,360 km/h; 3,430 m/s).

The U.S. Air Force recently announced plans to buy at least eight prototype AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapons, or ARRWs. This initial batch of these hypersonic missiles will support live-fire flight testing, set to begin in 2021, and could help give the service an early operational capability to employ the weapons a year later. However, there are risks of delays as the project is already a year behind schedule and has seen its total cost increase by almost 40 percent.

SpaceX Starship

If SpaceX develops the fully reusable Super Heavy Starship or just the single-stage Starship, then the US military could use it as a reusable hypersonic launch vehicle. It could carry hypersonic warheads over many missions.

This would vastly simplify and accelerate the US hypersonic missile program.

The Starship would have a range of 7000 miles. A Super Heavy Starship would be able to deploy anywhere in the world.

SOURCES- Global Times, Wikipedia
Written By Brian Wang,

25 thoughts on “Chinese Hypersonic Missile Engine Triples US Duration Record”

  1. Yeah, I missed your comment–mine was exactly the same. This has all kinds of fishiness attached to it.

  2. And you’ve summed up the reasons why the “simple” scramjet is not at all easy.

    (Though there is a good argument that wood and sinew are actually far more complex materials than steel. Just we have access to cheap biological sources.)

  3. How does one build a wind tunnel that will produce hypersonic flow for ten minutes? That seems a lot more exciting than developing the engine, which almost certainly had external fuel tanks.

  4. A mortar is not simpler than a Roman Ballista for the very reasons you stated. The technology to manufacture it is much more complex. Acquiring the materials, building manufacturing equipment, really just the overall processing of what you need. A ballista uses materials that require minimal processing by comparison and very few sources for those materials. For a trebuchet all you need is rope and wood, then some rocks as a weight and for projectiles. An axe and hand lathe for tools. A Ballista is just a giant bow. Wood, animal glue, rope, metal will improve it but is not entirely needed.

  5. …because if you are the one that is going to be sending a FedEx truck to pick up the cargo then you’re probably going to know it doesn’t have a weapons payload onboard?

    I don’t know. I don’t understand what you are saying. Anyone we would be firing weapons at with Starship probably wouldn’t be assuming we would be sending them Ikea furniture.

  6. Like I said above, their efforts on the coronavirus and how they bravely and honestly handled that pandemic has given me complete and total trust in the CCP.

  7. Well, I certainly believe this information coming out of Communist China. Just like I took their reports of how they handled the coronavirus, at complete face value.

  8. It could be that we are all missing the point here.
    Is this a record for longest run of a hypersonic wind tunnel? The only one I saw in operation only ran for a fraction of a second at a time.

    Having a more advanced wind tunnel is actually a big deal, probably more than a single engine achievement. Better tools underlie real technical progress.

  9. Doesn’t it have to fly to set the record? I though a “missile” could fly. Maybe say the “set a SCRAM engine endurance test record.” They tested an engine not a missile.

  10. Competition from China is good. It’s good for the World and even for USA itself.
    It already is pressuring US to invest more in tech and lets keep in mind that China is still developing country (while most of the West is developed more or less since 90’s, using PPP per capita passing 20k mark). China should achieve 20k per capita PPP this year or next, so we can mark 2020/21 as 1st year of developed China. In case of huge countries like China& India we should not use nominal GDP, China is so big they produce everything. They do not need to buy dollars to purchase advanced weaponery, cars, other gadgets from developed world. They may of course, but they do not need like small and medium countries. China is building everything for itself – space tech, weapons, chips, cars…

    Back to my main point – latest exampleof that pressure and acceleration are additional funds for AI development which were presented as answer to China fast progress.

    More funding means potential for more sci&tech breakthroughs and faster rate of achieving them.
    We are not getting any younger as time flies, so faster development means more exciting and interesting world for us all here and now as we are still here. Some breakthroughs may even bring us longer life (Super AI) I hope that “war” will soon move into biotech, CRISPR, longevity and other medical fields. I also hope that in late 20’s and 2030’s India will finally start punching in sci&tech according to its weight. Interesting times ahead of us

  11. Simple ≠ easy

    A hand loaded, gravity fired, mortar is a much, much simpler design than a Roman ballista catapult, but it required 2000 more years of technical development to be able to make one because of the subtleties of chemical, metallurgy and detailed precision manufacture.

  12. I kind of doubt that Starship could be put into service both for point-to-point cargo delivery, as has been suggested here in the past, AND as a weapons delivery system. If you see one of them headed your way, how do you decide whether to fire off your anti-missile defense systems or send the FedEx truck out to offload the cargo?

  13. The last point about Starship is the most important. Hypersonic missiles carried by Starship could be built of Starship Stainless filled with concrete for about the price of a fancy fence post with a JDAM kit.

  14. But the big issue for both is the materials, that is where everyone struggles and where the Chinese have problems with turbine jets. It’ always the blades. A scram jet is simpler, but it also requires very complex materials to keep weight down while handling the heat from friction and fuel burn reliably. You can build a heavy scram-jet on the ground and run it indefinitely with enough fuel, just make it out of tungsten alloy, but it wont fly since it’s too heavy.

  15. Yes. MUCH simpler is to use solid-rocket boosters. They don’t require cryogenic refrigerated liquid fuels, don’t have spinning-anythings to keep them going, are expendable, theoretically last for years without servicing, and are pretty potent in flight. Also refreshingly inexpensive, if not for the parasitics military-industrial-complex making them.

  16. Well, technically, compared to rotating jet engines, SCRAMJET engines are vastly more simple. SCRAMJET stands for … Supersonic Compression (or combustion) … see https:\en.wikipedia.orgwikiScramjet (repl with slash) for more info. Apart from having to handle some exotic hybrid refractory metal-ceramic composites,, none of the usual spinning-shat issues have to be addressed. Just a good fuel pump and a stout rocket-assist to get the craft up to speed.

  17. Look … China publishing that it has a 600 second run of a SCRAMJET engine is magnificent for them, to be sure. To say that it beats the US’s best by 3× is amusing. … From Wikipedia:

    On 1 May 2013, the X–51 performed its first fully successful flight test on its fourth test flight. […] The test aircraft accelerated to Mach 5.1 (3,400 mph; 5,400 km/h) and flew for 210 seconds until running out of fuel and plunging into the Pacific Ocean off Point Mugu for over six minutes of total flight time; this test was the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight. Researchers collected telemetry data for 370 seconds of flight. The test signified the completion of the program.

    Note the phrase, “when it ran out of fuel”.  

    Had it been sitting on a test-bed in a supersonic wind-tunnel like the Chinese demonstration, undoubtedly it could have flared away for 300, 500, 800, perhaps even indefinite number of seconds. Just add more fuel. The point of SCRAMJET is that it has no moving parts inside the combustion chamber, just in the fuel line to inject the fuel at high enough pressure, thru small enough atomization orifices, that it can maintain the hypersonic flame front, and thus thrust-multiplication.  

    Anyway, make no mistake … whatever China’s crowing about, we’ve got secret double-black squirrel business researching and testing away 24:7 to advance the Art. 

    ⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  18. That will be like towing a matchbox with a truck. Starship is not the magic solution for all the world problems. However what the author is alluding to is that we were fool enough not realize yet the benefits of building 1st stage reuasable launchers to launch an assortment of rockets and with an envelope of sensors to help guide them to their target. That will take much manned aerial bombing out of business at a cheap.

  19. They havent mastered jet engines yet but im supposed to believe they’ve done so with hypersonics?

  20. Just because you have a nice hammer, it doesn’t mean you have to treat every single problem as if it’s a nail.

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