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article imageChina test launches its next-generation weapon, Starry Sky-2

By Karen Graham     Aug 9, 2018 in Technology
Beijing - China successfully tested a hypersonic aircraft on Friday (Aug. 3), one that could one day be capable of firing nuclear missiles around the planet at up to six times the speed of sound, according to China's state-run news site China Daily.
The hypersonic aircraft is called Xingkong-2 or Starry Sky-2, and China claims it can scream across the sky at speeds of up to 4,563 mph (7,344 km/h) and is capable of rapidly switching direction in mid-flight, potentially allowing the rocket to blast right past existing missile defense systems.
Perhaps scarier is that this aircraft could one day be capable of firing nuclear missiles around the planet at up to six times the speed of sound, according to China's state-run news site China Daily.
The Starry Sky-2 is an experimental design known as a "waverider." The aircraft is an hypersonic design that improves the aircraft's supersonic lift-to-drag ratio by using the shock waves being generated by its own flight as a lifting surface, a phenomenon known as compression lift.
File photo: X51 Waverider scramjet
File photo: X51 Waverider scramjet
United States Air Force Research Laboratory
To date, the only manned aircraft to use the technique was the Mach 3 supersonic XB-70 Valkyrie. The Boeing X-51A scramjet demonstration aircraft was tested from 2010 to 2013. In its final test flight, it reached a speed of to Mach 5.1 (5,400 km/h; 3,400 mph).
There have been suspicions that China is building an arsenal of hypersonic weapons, but this new test flight is the first proof the technology is actively being developed. However, the technology is still likely years away from being ready for use in a combat setting,
A successful hypersonic flight
In the test, the aircraft was launched aboard a multistage rocket. The aircraft then separated from its launcher and continued flying on its own power, soaring at about Mach-5.5 (five and a half times the speed of sound) for 400 seconds, The aircraft then performed several maneuvers at an altitude of about 18 miles (29 km) before landing in a designated target zone.
NASA s X-43A hypersonic research vehicle
NASA's X-43A hypersonic research vehicle
Chinese military expert Song Zhongping told China's Global Times the successful test puts China "shoulder to shoulder" with the U.S. and Russia in the development of hypersonic striking systems.
The China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA) said in a statement the latest test flight – carried out at an undisclosed location in the northwest of the country – was a 'huge success', writes the South China Morning Post.
The entire flight was controlled and provided effective test data, while the aircraft itself was recovered “whole”, the statement said. “The test … has laid a solid technological foundation for engineering applications of the waverider design."
Beijing-based military analyst, Zhou Chenming said, "As well as being fitted to missiles, it may also have other military applications, which are still being explored."
This artist s impression  courtesy of the US Air Force  shows Boeing s hypersonic X-51A Waverider cr...
This artist's impression, courtesy of the US Air Force, shows Boeing's hypersonic X-51A Waverider cruise missile currently under development
US Air Force
Russia and the U.S. go hypersonic
Russia's Zircon cruise missile purportedly travels between 3,800mph (6,115kph) and 4,600mph (7,400kph) – five to six times the speed of sound – putting Russia 'half a decade ahead of the US, according to the Russian NewsAgency, Tass.
The Zircon is set to go into serial production in 2018, a source in the Russian military-industrial complex told TASS on Tuesday. "State tests of Zircon are scheduled for completion in 2017 in accordance with the contract, and the missile’s serial production is planned to be launched next year", the source said.
In the United States, defense firm Lockheed Martin revealed details of a $928 million (£661 million) contract to make a radical new weapon that will travel more than five times the speed of sound. The hypersonic missile will be capable of being launched from a warplane.
The new weapon has been dubbed the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW), under a new deal with the US Air Force. Work on the missile is being done in Huntsville, Alabama, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, and Orlando, Florida, according to Lockheed Martin.
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