Pentagon: USA Has No Counter to Chinese Hypersonic Missile
Pentagon intelligence official says Chinese hypersonic weapon poses major challenge
Bill Gertz reports: China’s testing of a new ultra-high-speed maneuvering warhead represents a major threat to U.S. military forces, a Pentagon intelligence official said on Thursday.
Lee Fuell, a technical intelligence specialist with the Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center, said during a congressional China commission hearing that the recent test of what the Pentagon has called the WU-14 hypersonic glide vehicle “represents a considerable challenge.
“It is very difficult to defend against,” Fuell told the U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission during a hearing on China’s military buildup. He noted that the weapon is “an area of great concern.”
The Washington Free Beacon first disclosed the test of an experimental hypersonic glide vehicle on Jan. 9. The vehicle appears to be an unpowered maneuvering vehicle that is lofted to near space and then is guided to its target at speeds of up to Mach 10 or nearly 8,000 miles per hour.
Chinese military commentators said the vehicle is planned for use in potential attacks against aircraft carriers at sea.
Fuell’s comments expressing concerns about the hypersonic threat contrast with those of Adm.Samuel Locklear, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, who said last week that he was not particularly concerned by the Chinese hypersonic weapon. Locklear later acknowledged to reporters that the high-speed weapon would be a factor in “the calculation of how we’re going to maintain a peaceful security environment in the future.”
Commission member Larry Wortzel, who asked Fuell about the hypersonic weapon, said China is developing the high-speed vehicle as an outgrowth of its anti-ship ballistic missile, theDF-21D.
“It’s a big deal,” Wortzel said in an interview.
Wortzel said that unless the U.S. military develops directed energy weapons, including lasers and pulsed rail guns “we don’t have a counter” to the hypersonic missile threat.
“It really forces us further away from China’s coasts,” he said.
In a prepared statement for the hearing, Fuell said China is developing a range of systems designed to counter ballistic missile defenses, including maneuverable reentry vehicles, or MaRVs, and multiple independently-targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs. The hypersonic glide vehicle is considered a maneuvering re-entry vehicle.
Other anti-anti-missile systems include decoys, chaff, jamming, thermal shielding, and anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, he said.
“Together with the increased mobility and survivability of the new generation of missiles, these technologies and training enhancements strengthen China’s nuclear force and enhance its strategic strike capabilities,” Fuell said.
New long-range mobile missiles and China’s beginning of strategic missile submarine patrols are expected to give the Chinese military more sophisticated command and control systems.
On China’s multiple warhead missiles, Fuell said the additional warheads will bolster the capability of its strategic nuclear forces.
“MIRVs provide operational flexibility that a single warhead does not,” he said. “Specifically, they enable more efficient targeting, allowing more targets to be hit with fewer missiles, more missiles to be employed per target, or a larger reserve of weapons held against contingency.”
China is expected to use its MIRVs to be able to hit more targets and allow a greater number of weapons to be held in reserve.
He did not say whether China has deployed multiple warheads only that it appears to be preparing to do so in the future.
The use of multiple warheads is likely to renew debate within U.S. intelligence circles about the number of China’s nuclear warheads. U.S. intelligence agencies claim China has around 200 to 300 warheads.
However, outside analysts insist that, based on the number of strategic missiles and the estimated large amount of fissile material produced by China, Beijing’s strategic warhead stockpile is far larger, perhaps between 600 and 1,000 warheads.
Fuell testified that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is steadily building up both ballistic and cruise missiles that are increasing in range and precision…