(CNN)China claims to have successfully tested its first hypersonic aircraft, a big step forward in aerospace technology that could intensify pressure on the US military.
The China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA), based in Beijing and part of the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, conducted the first test of the “Starry Sky-2” aircraft last Friday.
Hypersonic vehicles are not simply high-speed — they travel at least at five times the speed of sound. That’s fast enough to travel across the US in around 30 minutes.
According to a CAAA statement released Monday, the Starry Sky-2 reached a top speed of Mach 6 — six times the speed of sound, or 4,563 miles (7,344 kilometers) per hour.
The test was a “complete success,” claimed CAAA, which posted photos of the test launch on social media platform WeChat. “The Starry Sky-2 flight test project was strongly innovative and technically difficult, confronting a number of cutting-edge international technical challenges.”
The CAAA did not indicate what the new aircraft or technology would be used for, other than to say they hoped to continue contributing to China’s aerospace industry.
The Starry Sky-2 was launched into space by a multistage rocket, before separating and beginning its independent flight.
According to CAAA it performed several turns and other movements during its flight, and landed successfully afterward.
However, China’s new claim may put additional pressure on the US, as Gen. John Hyten of US Strategic Command acknowledged earlier this year.
“China has tested hypersonic capabilities. Russia has tested. We have as well. Hypersonic capabilities are a significant challenge,” Hyten told CNN in March. “We are going to need a different set of sensors in order to see the hypersonic threats. Our adversaries know that.”
Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work also warned in June that the US was in danger of being surpassed by China in terms of military technology, according to USNI (US Naval Institute) News.
Speaking at a forum, Work pointed to Beijing’s rising defense spending, which has led to significant progress in electronic warfare, big data, and hypersonic guns.
“This race is one we have to win,” he added.