China has tested a hypersonic rocket capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that circumnavigated the Earth before heading towards its target, the Financial Times (FT) reports, citing five people aware of the test. The evidence, the newspaper said, demonstrated the country's sophisticated space capabilities, taking the US intelligence community by surprise.
Launched in August, the rocket carried a hypersonic gliding aircraft that flew in low orbit before descending towards its target. The aircraft missed its target for about forty kilometers, but the test nevertheless showed that Beijing is far ahead in the field of hypersonic weapons than American officials imagined.
According to Taylor Fravel, a Chinese nuclear weapons policy expert who was unaware of the test, a hypersonic gliding aircraft armed with a nuclear warhead could help China evade US missile defense systems designed to destroy incoming ballistic missiles.
It would be "destabilizing" if China developed and deployed such a weapon, the expert added.