Science: China’s New Hypersonic Glide Vehicle

The Story:

The People’s Republic of China has unveiled a new weapons system that is an outgrowth of space technologies, and that has some in the U.S. defense establishment concerned. The new system is a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), combined with a fractional orbital bombardment system (FOBS).

What does that mean?

A vehicle is “hypersonic” if it can travel at least five times the speed of sound. China’s new HGV’s are similar to rocket-launched spaceplanes such as the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B, which launches to orbit, reenters the atmosphere, and glides to make a precise landing on a runway.

The HGV could do the same, except that it could have a nuclear weapon on board as it glides and its designers don’t have to worry about putting in landing gear.

The FOBS is an efficient system of carrying the HGV into position for a launch and glide.

Strange New Worlds:

Both FOBS’ and HGVs’ have existed before, but recent tests by the PRC make it the first to have combined them. This makes possible targeting that is both more accurate and less predictable to an adversary than anything the U.S. or Russia now have. This could be a Sputnik moment, changing the whole nature of both the space race and the arms race.

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