In an interview released, the second most senior US general revealed new details on China’s hypersonic missile test and warned that China might one day be able to launch a surprise nuclear attack on the United States.
General John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the No. 2 person in the U.S. military, revealed new details of last summer’s Chinese hypersonic weapons test, which sent a missile around the world at more than five times the speed of sound, during an exclusive interview with CBS News.
“They launched a long-range missile. It went around the world, dropped off a hypersonic glide vehicle that glided all the way back to China, that impacted a target in China.” Asked if it hit the target, Hyten replied, “Close enough.”
Hyten has previously called the pace at which China is developing its military capabilities “stunning,” warned that one day China could have the capability to launch a surprise nuclear attack on the US.
“Why are they building all of this capability?” Hyten said. “They look like a first-use weapon. That’s what those weapons look like to me.”
Gen. Glen VanHerck, head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, told a conference in August that China had “recently demonstrated very advanced hypersonic glide vehicle capabilities” that would “provide significant challenges to my NORAD capability to provide threat warning and attack assessment.”
China denied the assessment, and according to the BBC, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “This was not a missile, this was a spacecraft. This is of great significance for reducing the cost of spacecraft use.”
However, the Financial Times, quoting five unnamed sources, said it was indeed a missile, one that flew through low-space orbit before missing its target by a relatively scant 25 miles or so.
CNN is reporting that the US currently has 3,750 nuclear warheads in its stockpile, according to the latest data from the State Department, dwarfing the size of China’s nuclear stockpile
As China and Russia are developing their own versions of hypersonic missiles, the Pentagon has made developing hypersonic weapons one of its top priorities.
A US hypersonic missile test failed last month but the Pentagon insists it remains on track to deliver offensive hypersonic weapons in the early 2020s.