China fires hypersonic missile to circle planet in low orbit in terrifying display of its weaponry

China secretly tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile which orbited the globe in a terrifying display of military strength which left the US stunned.

A report from the Financial Times, which cited five unnamed intelligence sources, said the Chinese military launched the rocket in August carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle around the globe before cruising towards its target, which it missed by about two dozen miles.

The incident has left US intelligence officials stunned, sources say, as it shows ‘China has made astonishing progress on the development of its hypersonic weapons’. 

Shenzhou-13 spacecraft is launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on October 16

Shenzhou-13 spacecraft is launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on October 16

 Shenzhou-13 spacecraft is launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on October 16

a Long March-2F carrier rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft, sitting at the launching area at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the country's northwestern Gansu province

a Long March-2F carrier rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft, sitting at the launching area at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the country's northwestern Gansu province

a Long March-2F carrier rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft, sitting at the launching area at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the country's northwestern Gansu province

a Long March-2F carrier rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft, sitting at the launching area at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the country's northwestern Gansu province

Preparations underway: Pictures from earlier this month show the Long March-2F carrier rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft, sitting at the launching area at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the country’s northwestern Gansu province

Pictured: China launches the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft on October 16, carried on the Long March-2F carrier rocket, to Chinese Tiangong space station

Pictured: China launches the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft on October 16, carried on the Long March-2F carrier rocket, to Chinese Tiangong space station

Pictured: China launches the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft on October 16, carried on the Long March-2F carrier rocket, to Chinese Tiangong space station

This is the latest development in a terrifying arms race taking place in Asia as tensions between China and Taiwan continue to grow. 

China’s ministry of defence did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment on Sunday.

Along with China, the United States, Russia and at least five other countries are working on hypersonic technology, and last month North Korea said it had test-fired a newly-developed hypersonic missile.

At a 2019 parade, China showcased advancing weaponry including its hypersonic missile, known as the DF-17.

Ballistic missiles fly into outer space before returning on steep trajectories at higher speeds. 

Hypersonic weapons are difficult to defend against because they fly towards targets at lower altitudes but can achieve more than five times the speed of sound – or about 6,200 km per hour (3,850 mph).

Taiwanese honor guards take part in a parade marking National Day in Taipei on Sunday amid heightened tensions with China

Taiwanese honor guards take part in a parade marking National Day in Taipei on Sunday amid heightened tensions with China

Taiwanese honor guards take part in a parade marking National Day in Taipei on Sunday amid heightened tensions with China

Taiwan's national day celebrations at the weekend were a rare show of Taiwanese defence capabilities in the annual parade and underlined Tsai's promise to resist China's military threats

Taiwan's national day celebrations at the weekend were a rare show of Taiwanese defence capabilities in the annual parade and underlined Tsai's promise to resist China's military threats

Taiwan’s national day celebrations at the weekend were a rare show of Taiwanese defence capabilities in the annual parade and underlined Tsai’s promise to resist China’s military threats

It comes after it was revealed China could be ready for a full-scale invasion of Taiwan by 2025.

The island’s defence minister Chiu Kuo-cheng described the current tensions and the standoff as ‘the most serious’ he has seen in 40 years with the risk of a ‘misfire’ in the Taiwan Strait now very high.

 Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden sought to reassure a nervous public – saying that he has spoken with Xi Jinping and the pair have ‘agreed to abide by the Taiwan agreement’ – though the call itself appears to be a month old and it was not immediately clear what agreement he was referring to.

Since the call, China has dramatically stepped up its military operations around the island – flying 150 aircraft close-by at the weekend in a huge show of force coinciding with its National Day holiday.

At the same time, Beijing’s mouthpiece media has been warning that it is ‘only a matter of time’ before the island falls into their hands and that World War Three could be triggered ‘at any time’.

Earlier this week, satellite images emerged showing how China has upgraded military air bases close to Taiwan, in the latest hint at potential invasion plans. 

The Longtian airbase (pictured) has been expanded and adapted for air defence sites. At least five storage bunkers are being constructed and new administrative buildings have popped up

The Longtian airbase (pictured) has been expanded and adapted for air defence sites. At least five storage bunkers are being constructed and new administrative buildings have popped up

The Longtian airbase (pictured) has been expanded and adapted for air defence sites. At least five storage bunkers are being constructed and new administrative buildings have popped up

At the Huian base bombproof aircraft shelters and hangers of a different design, including three most likely used for munitions storage, are visible in the satellite image

At the Huian base bombproof aircraft shelters and hangers of a different design, including three most likely used for munitions storage, are visible in the satellite image

At the Huian base bombproof aircraft shelters and hangers of a different design, including three most likely used for munitions storage, are visible in the satellite image

At the Zhangzhou base, home of the Eastern Theatre Command's air force, a newly-constructed air defence site is visible as well as several new buildings

At the Zhangzhou base, home of the Eastern Theatre Command's air force, a newly-constructed air defence site is visible as well as several new buildings

At the Zhangzhou base, home of the Eastern Theatre Command’s air force, a newly-constructed air defence site is visible as well as several new buildings

Three bases in Fujian province along China’s south-eastern coast have been upgraded or reinforced with improved defences that could boost Chinese efforts in the event of aerial conflict with Taiwan.  

The images come after the People’s Liberation Army air force launched 149 sorties into Taiwanese air defence identification zone (ADIZ) from October 1 to 4 – a record number – amid rising tensions between China and Taiwan. 

Taken above the Longtian, Huian and Zhangzhou bases, the pictures reveal the construction of storage bunkers and new administrative buildings.

The pictures, taken by Planet Labs and first published by U.S. automotive and military website The Drive, show that construction work at the bases, where most of the infrastructure dates back to the 1980s, began in early 2020 and continued throughout the pandemic.

Taiwan has warned that China will be ready for a full-scale invasion of the island by 2025, ramping up tensions further after the UK's Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier led a huge naval exercise alongside the US and Japan in the region at the weekend

Taiwan has warned that China will be ready for a full-scale invasion of the island by 2025, ramping up tensions further after the UK's Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier led a huge naval exercise alongside the US and Japan in the region at the weekend

Taiwan has warned that China will be ready for a full-scale invasion of the island by 2025, ramping up tensions further after the UK’s Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier led a huge naval exercise alongside the US and Japan in the region at the weekend 

The Longtian airbase has been expanded and adapted for air defence sites. At least five storage bunkers are being constructed and new administrative buildings have popped up.

The image of the base, taken on October 2, also shows an expanded apron and four hardened aircraft shelters under construction. The shelters are directly connected to the runway for quick dispersal, according to a label on the image. 

At the nearby Huian base bombproof aircraft shelters and hangers of a different design, including three most likely used for munitions storage according to Planet Labs, are visible in the satellite image.

While at the Zhangzhou base, home of the Eastern Theatre Command’s air force, a newly-constructed air defence site is visible as well as several new buildings. 

Antony Wong Tong, a Macau-based military expert, told the South China Morning Post that the upgrades offer clues about how the bases might be used in a potential future conflict with Taiwan. 

‘Longtian looks like it will be used as an alternate aerodrome after massive refurbishment, while the four new hardened aircraft shelters and the existing functional 24 aircraft sunshade shelters in Huian airbase tell us it will be able to house a full-scale aviation brigade,’ he said.  

Reports of the improvements follow previously reported upgrades at other Chinese military bases and come amid rising tensions between China and Taiwan. 

China claims the self-governing island off its east coast as its territory, and says Taiwan must eventually come under its control and reserves the right to use force if necessary, according to AP.

Earlier this week, Taiwan’s president said the territory will not bow to pressure from Beijing and will defend its democratic way of life.   

‘The more we achieve, the greater the pressure we face from China,’ President Tsai Ing-wen said in a speech marking Taiwan’s National Day on Sunday in the capital of Taipei, adding: ‘Nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us.’

The National Day celebrations were a rare show of Taiwanese defence capabilities in the annual parade and underlined Tsai’s promise to resist China’s military threats.   

The president added: ‘We hope for an easing of… relations [with Beijing] and will not act rashly, but there should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure.

‘We will continue to bolster our national defence and demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves in order to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us.’

Chinese President Xi Jinping broke off official communication with Taipei following Tsai’s election five years ago, and has since ramped up economic, diplomatic and military pressure.

The latest flare-up was marked by the surge in flights by Chinese fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers into Taiwan’s ADIZ earlier this month.  

Taiwan’s ADIZ is an area in which all foreign aircraft are required to identify themselves and state their intentions. 

It is different to the island’s sovereign airspace, which extends over a smaller area 12 nautical miles from its coast. 

Taipei said it scrambled fighters, broadcast radio warnings and activated missile defences in response. A short time later, the Chinese aircraft turned back.   

Adding to rising tensions, China last Saturday warned the US over its involvement in Taiwan and claimed the ‘weak and cowardly’ island authorities will accept reunification.   

Earlier this month, Britain’s HMS Queen Elizabeth led a huge naval exercise in the Philippine Sea at the weekend alongside US and Japanese aircraft carriers. 

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