China is testing an intercontinental-range weapon equipped with a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), according to U.S. Air Force General Terrence J O’Shaughnessy, the Commander of U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
Gen. O’Shaughnessy made the remark in a written testimony submitted to the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on Feb. 13.
“Among the novel weapon systems China is testing is an intercontinental-range hypersonic glide vehicle—similar to the Russian Avangard*—which is designed to fly at high speeds and low altitudes, complicating our ability to provide precise warning”, read the testimony.
China had displayed its new DF-17 HGV-equipped medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) at the 70th National Day military parade, in October last year.
The DF-17 is China’s first MRBM equipped with an HGV and was developed by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC). The HGV payload, named DF-ZF and earlier designated by Pentagon as the WU-14, was reportedly designed specifically for the DF-17.
China conducted two tests of the DF-17 missile in 2017, with the first test taking place on Nov. 1 and the second test on Nov. 15.
Since the HGV-equipped DF-17 is a medium-range missile, Gen. O’Shaughnessy was likely referring to a new weapon in his written testimony to SASC.
Avangard (also called Objekt 4202, Yu-71 and Yu-74) is a Russian hypersonic glide vehicle powered by Scramjet (Supersonic Combustion Ramjet) engine. It entered operational service last year.
The glide vehicle can be carried as an MIRV (Multiple Independently-targetable Reentry Vehicle) payload by UR-100UTTKh (SS-19 Stiletto), RS-26 Rubezh (SS-X-31) and RS-28 Sarmat (SS-X-30) superheavy intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and can deliver both nuclear and conventional warheads.
Avangard can reach a speed of Mach 20 and is capable of sharp high-speed evasive maneuvers in flight making it “absolutely invulnerable for any missile defense system”.