China testing hypersonic weapon that could reach U.S. in under 20 minutes

The Chinese military is constructing the world’s fastest wind tunnel so it can test hypersonic weapons that would be capable of striking the U.S. within 14 minutes.

The tunnel, which is on tap to be completed by 2020, will produce winds that simulate hypersonic flight at speeds of 12 km per second (roughly 7.5 miles).

Zhao Wei, a senior scientist working on the project, said researchers are racing to meet damands imposed by China’s hypersonic weapon development program.

“It will boost the engineering application of hypersonic technology, mostly in military sectors, by duplicating the environment of extreme hypersonic flights, so problems can be discovered and solved on the ground,” said Zhao, a deputy director of the State Key Laboratory of High Temperature Gas Dynamics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

He said that ground testing will greatly reduce failure rates when actual flight testing begins.

The U.S. currently has the world’s fastest wind tunnel, which produces winds simulating flight at 10 km per second (~6.2 miles per second), located in Buffalo, N.Y. It produces winds at 30 times the speed of sound.

In March, China conducted seven successful test flights of its hypersonic glider WU-14, also known as the DF-ZF, at speeds of between Mach 5 and Mach 10.

Along with the U.S., Russia, India, and Australia are also conducting hypersonic flight testing.

Hypersonic missiles/vehicles are considered the next step in nuclear weapons delivery. Whoever develops a successful system first will have a distinct first-strike advantage over rivals. [source]

Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 2:  What is the current situation report and risk of war in each of the four flashpoints?

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Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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