Congress Reacts to Chinese Hypersonic Missile Test

hypersonic armyThe Chinese military executed a hypersonic missile test last week and three members of Congress are already saying the Chinese “appear to be leaping ahead of us” in regards to developing the technology.

It’s hard to tell if they are correct as few details have been released on the test and how it compares to the advances made by the U.S. military, which has executed multiple hypersonic tests in the past few years.

A hypersonic missile must travel between Mach 5 and Mach 10, or 3,840-7,680 miles per hour in order to be considered hypersonic.

U.S., China, India and Russia have all researched hypersonic missiles in order to pierce missile defense systems not built to intercept such fast moving missiles. Today’s cruise missiles travel about 500 to 600 miles per hour.

Republican House Armed Services Committee members Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, Rep. Randy Forbes and Rep. Mike Rogers issued a joint statement Tuesday saying they are concerned in light of hearing about the Chinese test about America’s ability to maintain its technological advantage with the level of budget cuts that Congress has approved.

“While round after round of defense cuts have knocked America’s technological advantage on its back, the Chinese and other competitor nations push towards military parity with the United States; in some cases, as in this one, they appear to be leaping ahead of us,” the lawmakers said in the statement. “This situation does nothing to support peaceful coexistence in the Pacific. We have dithered for three decades now, delaying badly needed replacement equipment for our troops, relying on hardware that was built during the Reagan years.”

It’s unclear how much the committee members know about the test versus what information exists in the media as all three attended a closed committee hearing Tuesday. However, for the Chinese to have leaped ahead of the U.S. on hypersonic missile technology, it means their missile test must have been as successful as the one flown by the U.S. last May.

During that test, the hypersonic missile tested by the U.S. Air Force reached a maximum speed of Mach 5.1 at 60,000 feet after the missile was released from a B-52H Stratofortress.

Called the X-51 WaveRider built by Boeing Co., the test was declared by the Air Force as the “longest air breathing hypersonic flight ever.” The test was the fourth and final mission of the nine-year $300 million project.

The WaveRider program has run out of money and the Air Force is waiting to see when a follow-on hypersonic missile program will be approved. Officials have said they hope to deploy unmanned hypersonic weapons as early as 2025.

The test executed by the Chinese appears to be different than the one completed by the U.S. Air Force in May. China has reportedly set up programs to develop both a scramjet that could be launched from a bomber and one launched from an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The test conducted last week by the Chinese was by a hypersonic missile launched from an intercontinental ballistic missile traveling over China. Under this scenario, the hypersonic weapon was launched from the ICBM before it returned to Earth. It’s unclear if the hypersonic missile hit a target or the speed the Chinese had hoped.

In 2011, the Army completed a similar test when it launched a three stage booster rocket equipped with the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon. The AHW glide vehicle reached hypersonic speeds after it was launched from Hawaii. The missile never left the Earth’s atmosphere.

Again, it’s hard to say if the Chinese hypersonic test was more advanced based on the lawmakers’ statement.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to He can be reached at
  • Inside Man


    Hell yeah, by 2020, the Chinese will definitely be equally matched. And they got the numbers, the PLA’s force (People’s Republic ARMY) is larger than our entire military force combined, and its reserve force is slightly larger than whole population of the US. Air Comat is gonna be crazy another 20 years, hopefully we ditch the F-22s from the last century. China is on right path, 10 years ago, i would of said China’s military has the same capability as our military during pre-Gulf War times, but now i dont know. And China is economically stronger, to go to war.

  • Dfens

    Hold on there now. The last thing we need is for people to get all hot and bothered about what China is doing and about how they are getting ahead of us in military technology, and about how they can launch stuff to the moon without needing to rent a rocket from Russia and stuff like that, because that’s just the kind of thing that might make people want to change our current procurement system from one that pays defense contractors more to drag out development programs and jack the cost of weapons through the roof to one that actually makes sense. We don’t want that to happen. After all, our defense contractors are making record profits right now and we don’t want anything to disturb the status quo. Plus there are a whole lotta rich people who are getting richer by selling off our industrial might to China that otherwise would be poor people because they don’t have any skills to contribute to a more meritocratic economic approach, so let’s not start spouting crazy ideas about slapping tariffs on goods and services from China. We don’t want to do anything that might stem the hemorrhage of half a trillion dollars of trade imbalance with China either. That would really be crazy, because we’d rather have American workers on welfare and food stamps than have them get real jobs. So just settle down and don’t worry about China until you see the hypersonic missiles actually coming over the horizon. That’s the sensible thing to do.

  • Socrates

    ‘Leapt ahead’ in hypersonic missile tech sounds paranoid (or paid for by defence companies’ lobbyists) on the basis of this evidence. However, where China (& India) have really leapt ahead is in science & engineering education. They just study harder. people here will dismiss them as copycats but they’re just learning from you. And fast. Eventually they will overtake you.


    All ICBM is hypersonic, what’s the big deal? US have been testing maneuverable hypersonic vehicle since the 60’s, so I think the USAF still have like 50 years of experience ahead of them….so, What is the big deal?

  • guest

    As in so much about China, they are working hard to keep us in the dark. One thing we know for certain is China is day by day becoming more aggressive in asserting territorial claims against Japan, Vietnam, Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan. Given the land, sea and air grab is of a sweeping amount of the South China sea, who can say they won’t make similar claims on the Arctic? Against Indonesia and Australia?
    Now add the context of a very aggressive military buildup, unprecedented in peace time to my mind. China has no aggressors on her borders. No country engaging in a massive arms buildup that could attack China yet here is China spending money on the military to attack US major assets that are weakly defended as well as to attack islands, airbases, ships and planes.

    I’d say we’re are being sheep to sleep thru this.

  • Highguard

    So, why in the heck hasn’t Buck’s team provide a supplemental appropriation to enable the Air Force to fund the follow-on to Waverider, the High-Speed Strike Weapon (HSSW) demo? He makes inquiries and then doesn’t follow-up. Why has Congress cut funding for the Boost-Glide Prompt Global Strike (BG-PGS). They keep asking the Air Force and other services to take on new projects out of hide and there ain’t no hide left to take it out of. Since the tech behind Boost-Glide weapons is not that fantastical, yes this is bad news for the country and we should “exaggerate” the results as much as humanly possible and conceiveable! Maybe its time for Americans to “wake up,” smell the pasture and terminate wasteful civilian programs devised to make our population into living, walking vegetables. Everybody needs to get to work!

  • whoszat

    From what I read, it is a hypersonic maneuvering RV designed to evade high altitude ABM systems.

    Since the US and Russia are the only nations with high altitude ABM’s, I’d say that one of us is the target.

  • Captain Obvious

    You… do realize DARPA and Black Project Programs are Top Secret Research projects that we barely get any info about? You’re worried about our public testing compared to the chinese when in reality our Realm of Technology, as I like to call it, is above the stars.

    You never show your hand until you need to.

  • Ben

    It’s funny how congressmen blame our seeming lack of superiority on “budget cuts.” (parentheses because the sequester only put a stop to budget *increases*)

    Consider that the US spends about $680 billion per year on defense while China ends up spending about $165 billion. If we’re worried about a country matching us with a defense budget that’s a small fraction of ours then we’re doing something very, very wrong. And the answer isn’t to spend more money on defense.

    • Ben

      Sure… NOW it shows that it posted.

    • Praetorian
    • Praetorian
  • bob

    “You never show your hand until you need to”

    you are a fool if you think China, a country that produced Sun Tzu, is behind us in this.

  • STemplar

    Not only the Chinese coming, but they’re coming at hyper sonic speeds now to deliver their junk to Walmart and sell it to bargain hunter Americans….Armageddon is surely just around the corner I’m sure.

  • Mambo

    Some of you guys have a terrible understanding of how our acquisition and funding process goes. We have been playing this game since WW2. It’s all about funding. Hyping the latest and greatest threat.

  • hibeam

    Big deal. Have you seen our healthcare website? We also hand out a lot of free phones. Those guys don’t stand a chance.

  • hibeam

    The Chinese graduate a lot of engineers but they are decades behind us in neck tattoos.

  • Rebecca

    Doesn’t surprise me if China does win the race to a hypersonic missle. They are building aircraft carriers and all sorts of things. Thats what happens when Communist countries put their military first. So sit back and watch what happens as we downsize our military and buy Obama Care Plans.

    • blight_

      They also collapse, like the Soviet Union.

      • Dfens

        Maybe they’ll collapse the day before they invade some other country. Maybe they’ll collapse the day after. Maybe we’ll collapse before they do.

  • Marc Winger

    It’s important not to over-rate the Chinese, unless an agenda needs rationalizing. That said, it’s up to the military to allocate to which programs they funnel the sizable amount of cash they do actually receive.

  • stephan

    since a lot of our technology has been outsourced over there with blessings from our government, republican’s and democrats then we wonder how they got their hands on the tech. We have sold out our country to save a buck in labor.

  • Auyong Ah Meng

    Key thing here is not to lose out in the critical weopon tech which can interdict & fully take out strategic targets i.e Command & Control, the actual self serving politicos/head hochos in control where we know always exactly where they are and can take them out (nevermind the collateral damage cos most likely their cronies & such + usual hangers on), take out asap similar opposing strategic enemy systems etc…

    As long as the above is done…and with real genuine already there committed allies (in more ways than one)…i.e. South Korea, Japan, Taiwan…etc..(and the usual like to straddle btw the fence “allies” before jumping on to the stronger side)…the initiative and that very strategic depth will remain with the US and her allies…

    Everything is fine. But please still keep some hidden cards and as always improve that bigger + super harder stick behind one’s back from the 1930s till now.

  • yannaes

    In America we are to concerned about all the rights of each individual and less about the capability of a country to defend itself from outside sources. Of course, if we, as a country are decaying within, all the missile programs we spend our tax money on will be for naught.

    • Ben

      You seriously think China has its longterm sights set on the US mainland? Even if it did we could cut our military in half and still be easily capable of defending ourselves from any foreseeable adversary.

      It’s that concern for individual rights that separates us from countries like the former Soviet Union, North Korea and China. It’s not something that can just be placed on the back burner.

  • TonyC.

    Keep those defense dollars rolling Buck!!! The fate of the free world depends on it. They are really good actors in our Congress. Never seem to do what is right, but they do give lip service.

  • Back in 1981-1987 before its total elimination from service do to INF treaty with old USSR the Pershing II nuke medium range missile first strike enplaced in Europe was hypersonic. But with added kicker Radar target grid section.

  • Obama wants to combat this by growing government except the military. Eventually he will have to combat “bad people and countries” the way FDR combated it.

  • bigrontn

    The thing is that the entire world, especially China, depend heavily upon America for their fiscal wellbeing. If America were destroyed the entire world would fall into crushing poverty. We are the world.

    • blight_

      Do they?

      The People’s Republic will lose a big customer, sure. But it’s easier to find new export customers (Africa the untapped…anyone?) than it is for an importer to survive without the exporter. A druggie whose dealer is arrested and goes to jail suffers pretty painful withdrawals…or finds a new dealer.

  • chaos0xomega

    Ugh… okay.

    1. China does not own most of the US debt, it just holds the majority of the US FOREIGN HELD debt, there is approx $17 trillion in debt, $5 trillion is held by foreign countries, China holds about $1.1 trillion.

    2. Economic ties and globalization have, historically, not prevented nations from going to war. The global economic system prior to both World Wars was in many ways (and especially in Europe) more interdependent and closely connected than the American and Chinese economies are today. That did NOT stop either world war from breaking out.

    3. In the context of this article, all we know is that China tested a hypersonic missile system, we don’t know that it worked, we don’t know for how long, we don’t know how fast it went, or anything else about it.

    • Viq

      As to point #2 above, that was before the era where countries could destroy each other (and most of the world) by ICBM in about an hour. Do you really think in this day and age that the U.S. and China would be willing to go to all out war with each other? I can’t even see a limited war (where the countries stay away from nukes) because the side that is losing is going to have great temptation to use them (especially the Chinese side as a humilitiatng defeat could spell the end of the Chinese government such that its leaders would feel they have nothing to lose by using nukes).

      I think only proxy wars (like what we had with the Soviets during the Cold War) are feasible between the U.S. and China. However, unlike what the Soviets had, I’m not sure that the Chinese really have client states (or client rebels) where such a war could occur.


      • Hunter76

        N Korea?

    • JOE


  • Maybe its time the Republicans realise they can’t have a Global military empire and coddle the rich at the same time make the wealthy pay their share of the cost for the war machine that protects their life style.

  • superraptor

    We are completely outmatched and China will walk through us as if we never existed and its our fault. The USN has removed all of its tactical nuclear weapons from its ships while China and Russia have thousands of tactical nuclear warheads on their ships and one day they will use them. Global zero, that’s what we seem to have become

  • Ben

    Food for thought:

    China spends about $165 billion per year on defense.
    The US spends about $680 billion per year on defense.

    If we’re even remotely worried about a country being able to match or threaten us with a budget that’s just a small fraction of ours, we’re doing something very very wrong. And spending more on defense isn’t the answer.

    • Dfens

      You definitely got that right. Throwing money at the problem is definitely not going to fix it. In fact, throwing more money at this problem is what made it as bad as it is.

    • We spend a lot of that money dragging heavy things all around the world. Some of the gas we use in Afganistan costs $20/gallon. Very soon, China will spend more on defense than we do.

    • Nathan

      How much we spend on our defense budget doesn’t mean anything. It’s what you accomplish with it that makes the difference. China has cheap more focused labor. Where our labor force is increasingly more expensive and getting lazier. We also waste a lot of that money just giving it away to companies that in the end fall short or did not develope what they said they would, and never have to repay the untold billions that they walk away with. Our defense budget is that high for one reason only and that is because there are so many pockets that need to be lined.

      • Ben

        That’s pretty much exactly what I was getting at.

  • Lance

    This is NOT China leaping ahead. They caught up if they were successful. We already have Hyper Sonic Missiles. I think this is more pork loving members of congress who want there pet project back from cuts. Face it missiles have little to do with crap Army pork like GCV and AAS.

    • Ben

      If you look at their pages they all claim that the sequester will “decimate” or “hollow out” our military and they present the numbers in a way that makes it seem like the budget is being drastically cut rather than capped.

      It’s easy to tell when somebody’s in bed with the industry.

  • Will

    Politicians never let the facts get in the way of rhetoric. 3 decades, or 30 years, ago was during Reagan’s 1st term. Or maybe it’s just another case of the real Reagan being less conservative than what he is made out to be by the current generation of politicians.

  • JohnB
  • Dan1971

    Ah, another article to get everyone afraid of the future. The birthers and “Obama is a communist muslim” will read this and just work themselves into a froth over this. As “chaos0xomega” correctly pointed out – “In the context of this article, all we know is that China tested a hypersonic missile system, we don’t know that it worked, we don’t know for how long, we don’t know how fast it went, or anything else”. But this won’t stop the people that buy the crap that Fox News shovels out to first spew out some crap about Obama (don’t get me wrong though – I don’t like him either. Though I at least use logic and actual facts to base my opinion on him) is trying to destroy the country or its military. In the end, all this article does is create an environment of fear that would lead to the military industrial complex getting more and more of the country’s limited budget.

  • Ed nelson

    Don’t worry, Hussein Obama will protect you with his health care plan

  • tony eaton

    A joke said, a factory asked an US PhD to develop a tool to identify empty package boxes with no product in it. After months of hard work, he developed a sophisticated machine worth $50,000. Only found that a Chinese worker put a fan aside to blow away the empty boxes. Same story about US vs Chinese hypersonic vehicles.

  • Deepak S

    BrahMos II developed jointly by India and Russia would be the worlds fastest missile.

  • Oli
  • shawn1999

    And just a few months ago when China floated its first carrier and their stealth aircraft, these baboons (Congress) claimed that China was still 3 decades behind us.

    See, China is where the US was in the 40’s. Can-do, will-do, whatever it takes. I’m not sure if we should learn Chinese for their soon-to-be military superiority, or Arabic, for the Muslim terrorists that the US is backing in Syria and Egypt…

  • WangChung
  • Gary

    The chinese leaders are thinking way into the future in its economic and weapons development programs. They will need land for its population, currently 1.35 billion.

  • Bill Truitt

    geici—-All anyone has to do is READ KING JAMES BIBLE and the answer will be in there, if you want to know what will happen. Especially The Book of Revelation!!!!!

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      Sorry, can’t. I asked King James if I could borrow it, but he was still using it.

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen

  • Bob

    Does anyone remember why China has the technology to even launch a missile in a straight line???? Remember Bill Clinton and Al Gore? yes the ones that were given strick orders from Congress to NOT give CHINA our Missile technology, They did anyway without being disciplined for it.

    • Juuso

      And what technology was that? China launched multiple satellites first time on orbit 1982, years before the claim that Clinton allowed them to have that sort of tech.

  • Death Merchant

    Don’t you realize the China is already ahead of the US.
    Damn near 16 hours, everyday!!!!

  • John peoples

    We’ll China sits back and collects money doesn’t try to police the world and is steadily building it’s military and navy forces it’s just a matter of time before they try and take our country over and all we do is everything opposite all empires eventually fall I’m goin down swinging it’s just I can’t live without freedom

    • Ben

      Too much Fox News.

  • I visited the USS Freedom at Changi naval base last year. What is often missed is that the vessel has facilities for two Seahawk helicopters.

    If played right, the two helicopters will extend the range and versatility of this vessel. It would allow extended over the horizon attacks and more.

  • JW Lew

    Mach 10? Even the Space Shuttle can do more than twice that speed !

    • blight_

      While landing…after being vaulted into space by two SRB’s and a fresh tank of gas. Amazing how fast you can go with enough potential energy given to you by height.

  • Reg
  • Reg

    So lets say China or a hostile state throws these missiles at any US military ship,vehicle,base, ANYWHERE around the world (hit or miss) if it is seen as an act of War aggression by the US. What do you think happens next? Put your political allegiances to the side and Answer that question realistically..

    • blight_

      Probably limited retaliation. SSGN starts dumping TLAMs on Fujian and Guangzhou, perhaps guessing that the followup is an attack on the Republic of China, though a simultaneous strike against Beijing against putative High Value Targets cannot be ruled out.

      Of course, TLAMs are probably going to be easily seen and defeated by modern radars coupled to half-reasonable anti-missile systems…unless TLAM has new capability under the hood that hasn’t been discussed.


    The administration leadership in this country acts stunned and yet their own hand is the cause for allowing this to happen in this time span. Cuts to invaluable programs and messing with troops pay and morale much lees the quality of training they receive and then the integration of unwanted mixes of male female and homosexual combatants on the battle field is all taking a toll. The fact that the US technology is always up for grabs and the cyber security is being raped is a grave indicator of our preparedness for engagement to secure the country…..We need real leadership and not the C- flakes we have now…

    • blight_

      Gays in the military allow China to develop more advanced weapons?

      The point you have missed is that the gays in the military now have been closeted, and retrospectively their performance while closeted is probably not significantly worse than their uncloseted heterosexual peers.

      I can’t speak for the ranks of closeted project runway, mauve and lavender loving gays who probably aren’t cut out for military life…but they are unlikely to enlist in the first place.

  • Mike Straub

    In the entire history of mankind, name when the Chinese government has EVER attacked outside its’ bordering countries. The answer is NEVER! Please don’t allow the no fighting Hawks in our government to stampede us into wasting more and more money on useless crap that will only line the pockets of the defense industry, and the government workers who get kick backs from same.

    • blight_

      During the Han they were pushing west until stopped by Muslim armies. If anything, their present-day borders are formed as a function of local expansionism.

      • Mike Straub

        Seriously! An event that took place almost 2,000 years ago?? While you are right about them, they were considered terrorists, who, as I said, never made it beyond the boundaries of the surrounding countries. The fact of the matter, in the past 1,000 years or so, the Chinese have been the victims of aggression. Who can blame them for arming themselves to prevent the likes of the “Rape of Nanking,” ever happening to them again. By the way, the Chinese people overall love Americans, and try to emulate many of our ways. Let’s just hope they don’t emulate the practices of our defense industry!

        • blight_

          For most of the past thousand they were in charge of the show.

          For the last hundred, less so, but in the long run the middle kingdom is bouncing back to equal status with western superpowers: hasn’t been able to say that since the 1400’s; when the European nations vaulted ahead after the interregnum of the Dark Ages.


    Nothing is reliable if it is made in china.USA is very much ahead of china ,will remain ahead in coming years. There is technology by which Chinese rocket, missle will refuse to move beyond china boundry. It can be failed to operate from satellites.

  • K.A.Sharma

    The U.S. has far more advanced weapon systems than any other country in the world today. But they don’t discuss or show all the weapons at their disposal nor the advanced testing that goes on in the country.

  • Truth

    It is a matter of time when China catches up, its already the largest car and mobile market in the world. Eventually they will become the most traded nation and therefore most influential, just like how the US has been for the last 100 years.

    China had the largest GDP in the world for most part of human history until Britain took over as no. 1 in the 19th century and followed by the US until today. It used to take them a few hundred years to peak but globalisation today has only helped its growth rate. China has always been the pinnacle of Asia where scholars came and learn. Go through the history books of Japan/Korea/Vietnam. The Chinese had control Vietnam and Korea for long periods of their history.

    Let’s bring manufacturing back to the US before it’s too late.

  • american tiger

    We should not forget about those Indians and Russians. they are making Brahmas hyper sonic missile jointly. Beside that India alone is developing Shaurya missile which travels at Mech 7 speed. They have intercontinental ballistic missile too. There missile technology is developing very fast. Better if we make Indians our friend to counter China.

  • Dennis Wong

    It’s about time the US realises although China can be sent back to stone
    or wooden age,the US will suffer devastating damage.Even with damage limitation measures,the PLA will continue to stockpile more destructive capability
    in their weapons so as to be in a position to wreak more destruction.

  • Captain America

    You don’t beat the Chinese in economics or through military power – you defeat them by being morally stronger than them. Nothing means more than honor, but when you are shown to be the dog, especially in the far east, you can only hang your head in shame.

  • AMisEnemigos

    As long as we keep our nuclear deterrent up to date, China cannot match us in that respect yet? What’s worrisome is in addition to hypersonic delivery systems, they are also developing EMP weapons which can destroy both us and the Russians if they get it launched first? Not much we can do with all our power grids and electronics fried, except get blasted…