El Pais: Hypersonic Missiles Destabilize Global Balance

3 years ago




A Spanish newspaper has highlighted the "worrying" technology offered by China and Russia, which is changing defense plans and focusing on the deteriorating structure of non-proliferation treaties.

El País said that missiles with a speed exceeding that of sound by five times, are two types: sailing and cruise missiles, and generally, both can be maneuvered to modify their path towards the target.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles also reach hypersonic speed at the stage of their descent, but their trajectory is easy to intercept.

On the other hand, cruise missiles and hypersonic missiles cannot be stopped because of their maneuverability.


Latest Development

The paper explained that the missiles need the initial batch of a ballistic missile in the process of launching from it, and cruise missiles contain a fan engine, although they also need initial push to reach the speed at which they can operate.

It noted that the information that had emerged about the possible launch of a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile capable of orbiting the Earth before it hit its target had unleashed a global wave of concern to understand the true scope of Chinese capabilities, and in general the state of competition among forces in the often destabilizing global arms sector.

For its part, the Financial Times of Britain reported on the alleged launch, which would have taken place in the summer, of a type of weapon that breaks global plans thanks to a combination of speed, maneuverability and a path that greatly complicates the detection and interception of these missiles.

"Overall, these missiles reach a speed of at least five times the speed of sound, more than 6,000 kilometers per hour," it said.

In this situation, Beijing denies this, claiming it was a normal test, and for its part, Washington does not speak out, but has expressed concern about the issue.

The Financial Times then expanded its information and noted that there were two tests for this type of weapon during the summer.

The missiles are the latest development in the field of hypersonic weapons, the paper said.

In July 2021, Russia claimed to have successfully launched the Zircon missile, which is also hypersonic, albeit with a much shorter range than a warship.

In September 2021, the Pentagon announced that it had tested another test, manufactured by Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, and North Korea claimed to have launched a missile with the same technology.

In early October 2021, Moscow also conducted two tests with Zircon missiles, but they were launched from submarines.


High Tensions

According to the newspaper, two experts agree that Beijing’s actions are of strong importance as a military and political message to Washington.

The basic military logic is that control of this technology can obliterate and eliminate the significant competitive advantage the United States enjoys over its missile defense opponents.

"The Chinese and Russians are not worried about the current U.S. missile defense capabilities, but about the next stages," El País quoted Justin Bronk, a researcher at the Royal British United Services Institute, as saying.

"With this technology, the Chinese are trying to send a deterrent message to the United States in some way, they're trying to tell them, "It's useless for you to continue down this path, to develop a new generation of ballistic missile defense, because we've opened another path."

"Right now, Washington has a clear defensive advantage, but it's not enough to neutralize a potential contemporary multiple attack, yet this prospect is disturbing to Moscow and Beijing, which have an interest in changing this dynamic," the Spanish newspaper said.

"We don't know exactly what happened, there are no reliable sources, but what we can say is that China is trying to appear on the scene, and all it does is a political signal to America," El País said in an interview with The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute researcher Petr Topychkanov.

"The time has come when China can be militarily regarded as a small Russia: Beijing wants to be considered a weighty strategic actor, and in general, this is the political content of Beijing's message, at a time determined by the high tensions between the Asian giant and the U.S. superpower," the expert said.


A New Generation

"Experts are discussing to what extent hypersonic technology can become a destabilizing factor in the global balance, but it cannot be denied that the superpowers have been looking for missiles of these characteristics for some time," the paper said.

On the other hand, conventional ballistic missiles exceed the speed of sound in their return phase, but their predictable trajectory and weak maneuverability make their detection and interception easier.

On the other hand, the new generation of missiles represents a change in this regard.

But Topychkanov, like many other experts, suspects that it is a highly destabilizing factor, asserting that "it is not clear at this stage whether this technology is an element capable of revolutionizing the arms sector, which is difficult to compete with the efficiency and prices of ballistic missiles.”

"The balance of power is not clear at the moment, due to the lack of transparency, and as China and Russia develop their new capabilities, the United States, for its part, is increasing investment in this sector," the paper said.

Other actors are trying to follow the same path, for example, France and the United Kingdom have been leading the manufacture of a missile of this class, and according to London, it could be operational in 2028.

"Bilateral agreements between Washington and Moscow to arms control have played a very important role since the Cold War, but have been constantly weakening over the century, particularly giving China the freedom to act," the paper said.

"On the other hand, Beijing's growing persistence is clear, a position that it no longer hides, in this sense, the military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of communist power, in 2019, was a symbol of this change, with a huge display of weapons, including hypersonic models," El Pais concluded.