When famous philosopher Francis Fukuyama wrote his book 'The end of history and the last man', he claimed that after the cold war, USA is the boss of the world and no-one can challenge it. But the latest test of hypersonic missile by China has shaken the world and especially the US’ agencies.
What China has done now?
As per the reports of ‘Financial Times’, prepared by Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington and Katherine Hille in Taipei. It said that China has tested hypersonic glide vehicle carrying the missile, ‘DF-17’. It can also be used as nuclear warhead. This was launched by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology and developed by China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics. Although it missed the target by just 24 miles, the threat cannot be ignored.
Why is this missile test such a big thing?
In August, China tested nuclear capable hypersonic missile system. Hypersonic speed is the flying speed of more than five times the speed of sound, which is Mach 5 or more than it. This speed is difficult to track and tough to stop. USA and Russia were also trying to develop it but China has now launched it very first in October 2021. This missile went up in the orbit, disgorged there and then moved towards its pre-determined target. It missed the target by 24 miles but accuracy is subject to refinement as we go ahead.
Russia tried to develop such missiles, which will fly low to evade detection system and was called FOBS (Fractional Orbital Bombardment System). It wasn't successful because it needed a long range, at least intercontinental range. But China has become the first country to achieve it.
USA has very strong anti-ballistic missile system. Since US has moved out of Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was ratified in 1972 between US and USSR, Russia and China are developing more ballistic missiles to evade US defence and investigation system. Defence system use highly sophisticated RADARs. From the trajectory of ballistic missile, the defender country can estimate the target of attacker because it moves on a parabolic path. So, you can anticipate its move and activate your defence system.
Why is this launch controversial?
Countries don't hide such missile tests. Russian President Putin has flaunted about their research on such missiles and called them – ‘invincible’. But no such claims have been made from Beijing. It has raised concerns. Why is China hiding it? Chinese are even denying such allegations by saying that “it was not a missile, it was a space vehicle, and this test is a routine spacecraft test and was used to verify the reusable technology of space craft to reduce costs”.
USA is caught by surprise that how Chinese have built such system so fast. USA has said that “China has no reason to develop such a weapon without regional or global aspirations”.
China launched its 77th launch of Long March 2C rocket in July and now in October they have launched the 79th flight of Long March rocket. They hid their 78th long Mach's launch which raised eyebrows. After this 78th launch, major celebrations were held in China.
Can we defend ourselves from hypersonic missile?
Subsonic missile has speed up to 1 mach whereas supersonic missile has speed of 1-5 mach. But hypersonic missile has the speed above 5 mach.
In a supersonic missile, once a target is fixed, it cannot be changed and that's why gives the chance to the defender country to intercept its path and defend its area. But in Chinese nuclear warhead hypersonic missile, target can be changed mid-flight, it can also be maneuvered, that's what makes it lethal and cause of concern for the world. Also its high speed gives very less time for reaction even if it is detected. So, this leaves the defender country in uncertainty.
USA has a defense system called THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense). USA has demonstrated all its detection system to look towards North, because USSR and USA had tussle in 20th century. So, USA will handle it, if a missile come from North Pole to USA, but now Chinese missile can come from any direction, from South Pole also. So USA will have to invest heavily on demonstrating its radars in this new mechanism.
Russia has strong defence system like- Avangard, 3m22Zircon, and Kinzgal, a hypersonic cruise missile that can be launched from aircraft.
India and Russia are working on BrahMos-2, developing a ‘scramjet engine’. A ramjet engine, currently used in Brahmos missile, is the kind of engine that sucks in air at high velocity, and then in a way, slows it down that it can be used for combustion. On the other side, scramjet engine can take in air at much higher velocity and then uses it for combustion, thus providing higher speed. India is also testing a Mach 6 scramjet technology. India has also built 12 wind tunnels to generate the high velocity to test these vehicles.
More than 5 countries are researching on hypersonic vehicles including India, Russia and USA. DRDO has tested HSTDV (Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle), which was said to be important for developing a hypersonic missile in next 4-5 years, so India could have its hypersonic missile by 2025.
So, China is currently not only posing danger to all over the world but also posing a direct threat to its rival USA, which has enjoyed the position of sole superpower of the world for a very long time.