What is hypersonic aircraft?

Starry Sky-2 hypersonic aircraft

Starry Sky-2 hypersonic aircraft

China has successfully tested a new hypersonic aircraft, a potential "hypersonic strike weapon" that could one day be capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads and evading all existing defence networks like the USA missile shields, according to Chinese state-run and state-affiliated media, citing experts and the domestic designers.

During its flight the aircraft maintained speeds above mach 5 (3,806 mph) for 400 seconds and reached a top speed of Mach 6, or 4,563 miles per hour.

The test of the Xingkong-2, or Starry Sky-2, was conducted in a target range located in northwest China on Friday, the state-run China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA) said in a statement.

The Starry Sky-2 is still in the experimental stage, but when completed, the waverider technology would be used to penetrate any missile defence system in the world with nuclear warheads. "The Starry Sky-2 flight test project was strongly innovative and technically hard, confronting a number of cutting-edge global technical challenges".

The aircraft then landed in a designated landing zone, where it provided researchers with "effective" test data. This first test "has laid a solid technological foundation for engineering applications of the waverider design", the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics said in a statement, according to the South China Morning Post.

"The test confirms that China possesses reliable and advanced technologies for a hypersonic vehicle, as it relied on its own propulsion for a 400-second hypersonic flight-as opposed to such vehicles in other nations that didn't use their own propulsion in the first flight-test", he said.

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Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV contributor, said the new waverider uses shockwaves to generate hypersonic flight.

"Announcing the successful test to the public indicates that China must have already made a technological breakthrough with the weapon", Chinese military expert and commentator Song Zhongping told China's highly-nationalist Global Times, adding, "The test showed that China is advancing shoulder to shoulder with the USA and Russian Federation".

The current generation of anti-missile defence systems is mainly created to intercept cruise and ballistic missiles, which are either slower or easier to predict, making them possible to intercept. That's fast enough to travel across the United States in around 30 minutes.

The cutting-edge aircraft was sacked into space using its unique shockwave propulsion system, an experimental design known as a waverider.

The US and Russian Federation have been researching and testing "waveriders" since 2010. It said the design of Starry Sky 2 took three years.

This is first time that China has publicly disclosed the development of its aircraft.

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