US Mystifies Hypersonic Weapons Technology as It Lags behind Others

The United States always led in weapon technology and boasted its achievement in advanced weapon technology. Now, unexpectedly it lags behind Russia and China in hypersonic weapon technology that is regarded as the weapons of the future. It is ashamed to admit it so that it has to mystify the technology.

That has caused people to call for US Department of Defense to demystify such technology so that people will pay attention to speed up US development of such technology. That is why Space News magazine published and re-published the op-ed titled “DoD needs to demystify hypersonic weapons technology”.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Space News’ op-ed, full text of which can be viewed at

It’s Time for Pentagon to Catch Up with China’s Weapon Development

CNBC says in its article “China’s ability to spend on weapons has the Pentagon eager to develop hypersonics as the US tries to catch up” that according to Mike Griffin, the Pentagon’s top engineer,

the US is lagging behind Russia and China in hypersonics. It quotes Griffin as saying, “We need to be able to not only match but to overmatch, especially the Chinese,”


China has abundant funds while the US is hard up.

Chinese scientists and engineers are working 9 hours 6 days a week voluntarily. Do US ones have such enthusiasm in developing technology for their country?

However, CNBC says in the report, “The United States does not have a defense against hypersonic weapons, which can travel at least five times the speed of sound, or a little more than a mile per second. Combined with blistering speed, maneuverability and long-range flight, these weapons are difficult to track, target and defeat. Russia and China have sprinted to develop a variety of weapons of this caliber, sparking concerns that the U.S. will be outpaced on this front.”

The US is in trouble. It wants to attack Russia and China but now it will be unable to defend the counterattack of hypersonic weapons from Russia and China.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on CNBC’s article.

China’s hypersonic military projects include spaceplanes and rail guns

The nation is focusing its research and development on tech that moves faster than the speed of sound.

By Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer June 26, 2018

The Tengyun spaceplane, first flight scheduled around 2020, will benefit from Chinese research into high-strength fuselage materials, as well as increased research into scramjet technologies.

As President Trump tries to garner enthusiasm for an undefined U.S. “Space Force”, China has been making steady progress in its own space and military operations, including advances in 3D printing, energy storage, scramjet test platforms, and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

TSC Beijing
TSC Beijing, one of the world leaders in 3D printed metal aviation parts, has achieved significant time and cost savings by 3D printing this titanium center fuselage box for a “high-speed” Chinese drone.
TSC Beijing

TSC Beijing, a Chinese titanium manufacturer, successfully 3D printed a titanium fuselage central box for its high-speed aircraft, which cuts production time from two years down to just six months. TSC used the 3D laser printer TSC-S4510 (one of the world’s largest 3D printers) to print the fuselage, within an error tolerance of less than 0.5mm. The intended aircraft was identified only as a “high-speed” (read: hypersonic) aircraft. Given its narrow wing roots, and 23-foot total length, it is likely a hypersonic UAV.

This high-speed Chinese drone, which reportedly first flew in September 2015 is launched from an H-6 carrier aircraft, the drone fired up its combined cycle turbo-ramjet engine to accelerate from subsonic to high-supersonic speeds. Tentatively identified as the WZ-8, it could be equipped with a scramjet to test combined cycle hypersonic engines.
Bai Wei

One likely candidate for the titanium airframe is a single engine, high-supersonic UAV with narrow wings and a needle-like airframe. Possibly designated the WZ-8, it is believed to be an air-launched UAV used to test high-speed propulsion technologies, such as a turbine ramjet combined cycle engine. TSC Beijing’s rapidly printed 3D components have an impact beyond any one system—they could allow China to field more test UAVs soon, speeding up next-generation hypersonic technologies.

Global First
China’s railgun Haiyan Shan.
Chinese magazine

The Global Times reported that the Academy of Aerospace Solid Propulsion Technology, part of aerospace giant CASC, has delivered advanced Direct Current (DC) electric motors for use in an ‘electromagnetic weapons system.’ The DC motors are designed to operate in environments with heavy shock and recoil, and intense magnetic fields. This suggests the weapons system is a railgun, which uses electromagnetic force to shoot shells at speeds above Mach 6. Once operational, Chinese railguns could be used for anti-ship, long-range artillery bombardment and air/missile defense missions.

Ling Yun Scramjet
NUDT aims to develop the Ling Yun scramjet as a mass produced research platform for hypersonic flight in the stratosphere, in addition to any military applications.

In May, the National Defense University of Technology (NUDT) showed off the Ling Yun, a Mach 6+, two stage scramjet testbed. NUDT hopes that the Ling Yun’s relative simplicity and reliability will make it a mass-produced platform for refining new hypersonic technologies such as thermal resistant components for communications systems, or for collecting atmospheric data in the near space. The Ling Yun’s ease of production could provide the basis for scramjet cruise missiles used to swarm enemy ships and air defenses.

Hypersonics for the Masses
The Ling Yun first flew in December 2015; it is likely that Chinese military engineers are taking a keen interest in using its scramjet engine for direction weapons applications.
National Natural Science Foundation of China

Other possibilities open up if Ling Yun’s scramjet engine can scale down to a 6- to 8-inch diameter. This would open up the potential of hypersonic shells for China’s cannons that could fire hundreds of miles (the U.S. Army is also at work on such a system, targeting completion in 2023). A scramjet cannon would be cheaper and more mobile than a railgun, since it wouldn’t need to lug around massive systems for power generation and storage. Scramjet cannons would be cheaper than ballistic missiles, not to mention being harder to defend against due to smaller sensor profiles and higher rates of fire.

Finally, the DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) conducted its tenth test flight on May 27, 2018. The DF-41 is a mobile, 13,000-15,000km range ICBM with a multiple warhead payload of 1.5-2 tons. The DF-41’s massive payload and Mach 25 top speed gives it enough performance to launch other systems, like a hypersonic glide vehicle with global reach (a Chinese response to the infamous Russian ICBM, Avangard) or more exotically, a multistage booster for long-range scramjet cruise missiles.

Source: Popular Science “China’s hypersonic military projects include spaceplanes and rail guns”

Note: This is Popular Science’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

Report: China’s Advanced Weaponry Threatens U.S. Military

Beijing pursuing ‘leap ahead’ high tech arms strategy

By Bill Gertz

November 17, 2017 5:00 am

China is developing an array of advanced, high technology weapons designed to defeat the United States in a future conflict, according to a congressional commission report.

“China is pursuing a range of advanced weapons with disruptive military potential,” says the annual report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

The report outlines six types of advanced arms programs that Beijing has made a priority development in seeking “dominance” in the high-tech weapons area. They include maneuverable missile warheads, hypersonic weapons, laser and beam weapons, electromagnetic railguns, counterspace weapons, and artificial intelligence-directed robots.

China revealed two anti-ship ballistic missiles with maneuverable reentry vehicles in 2010 and 2015 and also has set up the sensors and satellites needed for striking moving targets at sea—weapons designed for use against U.S. aircraft carriers and other warships.

Beijing’s hypersonic missiles are in the developmental stage but are “progressing rapidly,” with seven hypersonic glide vehicle tests since 2014 and one reported scramjet engine flight test in 2015.

Directed energy weapons include work on a high-power microwave anti-missile systems this year and high-energy chemical lasers that can blind or damage satellites.

China also is developing electromagnetic rail guns capable of firing projectiles that use kinetic instead of explosive means to destroy targets.

China’s space weapons include direct-ascent antisatellite missiles, ground-based directed energy weapons, and rendezvous and proximity operations for destroying or grabbing satellites.

Artificial-intelligence weapons include robotic, self-thinking cruise missiles, autonomous vehicles, and swarms of drones.

Technology advances supporting the weapons include semiconductors, supercomputing, industrial robotics, and quantum information science.

The threats to the United States from the arms include potential attacks against ships at sea, hypersonic missiles to penetrate missile defenses, targeting U.S. forces with railguns, and space arms that could block U.S. military operations in a future conflict.

China also could use unmanned artificial intelligence weapons in large numbers to saturate U.S. air defenses using swarm technologies.

“Given Beijing’s commitment to its current trajectory, and the lack of fundamental barriers to advanced weapons development beyond time and funding, the United States cannot assume it will have an enduring advantage in developing next frontier military technology,” the report concluded. “In addition, current technological trends render the preservation of any advantage even more difficult.”

Once characterized by decades-long development, China is moving rapidly in the area of specialized weapons in ways designed not for military parity with the United States but military supremacy.

Advanced weapons work today appears aimed at “moving from a phase of ‘catching-up’ to pursuing ‘leap-ahead’ technologies,” the report said.

The advanced arms could produce potential intelligence surprises that pose a threat to the United States and its forward-deployed forces and regional allies.

“China’s achievement of a surprise breakthrough in one of these technologies is possible, due to the secrecy surrounding these programs and the uncertain nature of advanced weapons development in general,” the report said, noting, “such a breakthrough could have significant strategic implications for the United States, particularly in its potential to further existing access challenges and hold forward deployed U.S. forces at risk.”

Three commissioners, in an “additional views” note in the report, warned China’s advanced weapons pose a threat to the Asia Pacific region.

“There are a number of areas where the PLA could make breakthroughs that would be decisive in a conflict with the United States and its regional allies,” said James M. Talent, Michael R. Wessel, and Katherine C. Tobin.

“In short, China is not just an asymmetric threat to the United States, or even a near-peer competitor. It has become, in its region, the dominant military power. That fact, more than any other, explains why China’s aggressions over the last five years have been successful.”

The successes include encroachment in the South China Sea, imposition of an air defense zone in the East China Sea, aggression against Philippines, coercion of Vietnam, increasing pressure on Taiwan, harassment of Japan and other provocations, they stated.

Rick Fisher, a China military expert, said the commission should be commended for examining China’s large investment in advanced military technologies.

“As in most areas of military capability, the United States is in a race with China to develop the technologies and systems that will dominate the future global military balance,” he said.

Overall, the report paints a dire picture of Chinese security and economic developments that portend difficult ties with the United States in the coming years.

For example, the commission faulted “Beijing’s discriminatory treatment of U.S. companies and ongoing failure to uphold its World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations” as damaging U.S.-China relations.

The current U.S. trade deficit with China was $347 billion in 2016 and $238 billion in the first eight months of 2017.

“U.S. companies are feeling increasingly pressured by Chinese policies that demand technology transfers as a price of admission and favor domestic competitors,” the report said.

Internally, high and rising debt levels pose an increasing threat to China’s financial stability. Beijing’s current total debt reached $27.5 trillion by the end of 2016.

China also has sharply increased investment in the United States in a bid to obtain new technologies, including information and communications technology, agriculture, and biotechnology.

The technology transfers pose risks to U.S. economic and national security interests.

On the South China Sea, the report said China has tightened its effective control of the strategic waterway by militarizing artificial islands, and pressuring states in the region to accept its illegal sovereignty claims.

China’s military buildup also is continuing, with new and advanced arms and capabilities, including warships, aircraft and cyber and space weapons.

“The PLA Rocket Force continues to improve both its conventional and nuclear forces to enhance long-range strike and deterrence capabilities and is modernizing its forces to increase the reliability and effectiveness of both conventional and nuclear missile system,” the report said.

The missile modernization is “eroding the United States’ ability to operate freely in the Western Pacific.”

China also is rapidly expanding its state-controlled media influence operations overseas that involves pressuring foreign publications.

For example, China’s influence over Hollywood and the U.S. entertainment industry has increased and Chinese authorities pressured Cambridge University Press into censoring several academic publications.

“The investment activities of large, Chinese Communist Party-linked corporations in the U.S. media industry risk undermining the independence of film studios by forcing them to consider self-censorship in order to gain access to the Chinese market,” the report said.

The report noted that in April, the Chinese government also launched a major international media campaign to discredit a Chinese whistleblower living in the United States.

Among the commissions recommendations are new laws updating the Treasury Department-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to deal with potentially threatening Chinese investment.

For example, the commission recommended blocking Chinese-state owned or state-controlled companies to buy U.S. companies.

To counter Chinese influence operations, the panel recommended requiring Chinese state-run media outlets and entities to register as foreign agents “given that Chinese intelligence gathering and information warfare efforts are known to involve staff of Chinese state-run media organizations,” the report said.

More U.S. military spending is needed to counter the Chinese buildup of weapons, both traditional and advanced.

“As China expands its role on the world stage, it seeks to diminish the role and influence of the United States in Asia and beyond,” the report says. “It is incumbent on U.S. policymakers to advance a coordinated and comprehensive economic, geostrategic, and military strategy that ensures these goals and ambitions do not disrupt U.S. interests at home or abroad.”

Reaction from China was swift. The annual commission report was denounced by Chinese state media on Thursday as “another anti-China report.”

“From China’s perspective, the commission is one of the most hostile U.S. organizations,” the Communist Party-affiliated Global Times states.

Source: Washington Free Beacon “Report: China’s Advanced Weaponry Threatens U.S. Military”

Note: This is Washington Free Beacon’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

China’s Defenseless Hypersonic ICBMs, Conventional Missiles Ready Soon

Screenshot from Chinese television report on a US hypersonic vehicle

Screenshot from Chinese television report on a US hypersonic vehicle

US media Washington Free Beacon says in its report “China Conducts Fourth Test of Wu-14 Strike Vehicle”, “China this week carried out the fourth test of an ultra high-speed nuclear delivery vehicle that conducted what intelligence officials say were extreme maneuvers.”

That was the fourth successful test after the three successful tests on on Jan. 9, Aug. 7, and Dec. 2 respectively.

Due to the successes, there is the speculation that China will have hypersonic missiles with nuclear and conventional warheads within a couple of years.

That is what China regards as the integrated space and air capabilities for attack and defense.

Such nuclear ICBMs will make US missile defense obsolete due to its high speed and maneuverability.

Some US military strategists still believe that China lags behind the US so that it has to develop asymmetric capabilities to manage to resist advanced US weapons.

No, that is entirely US imagination.

China is developing most advanced weapons better than American ones to achieve military superiority.

A comparison between US weapons item by item is irrelevant. China has no need for so many advanced aircraft carriers as the US has as it does not need them now.

China’s priorities are:

1. The capabilities to wipe out US military near its coast so that when US attacks it, there will not be much destruction in Chinese homeland;

2. The capabilities to defend its trade lifelines at high sea; and

3. The capabilities to retaliate by attacking US homeland after Chinese homeland has been attacked by the US.

China has already obtained the first capabilities by developing its DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles and lots of anti-ship ballistic missiles.

China is making efforts to obtain the second capabilities by developing hypersonic missiles to attack anywhere in the world. The missiles had better be carried by strategic nuclear bombers China is developing. China’s fourth-generation nuclear submarines with magnetic liquid propulsion will also help. China may use such submarines to cut US trade lifelines at high sea in retaliation of US cutting of Chinese ones.

Through years of efforts, China’s hypersonic missiles carried by strategic nuclear bombers and China’s most advanced cruise missiles carried by its most advanced attack nuclear submarines will be able to attack anywhere in US homeland. By that time, the US has no choice but to refrain from provoking let alone attacking China.

If the US continues to adopt its outdated strategy, it will be the US instead of China to pursue asymmetric capabilities.

The following is the full text of Washington Free Beacon’s report:

China Conducts Fourth Test of Wu-14 Strike Vehicle

‘Extreme maneuvers’ used in latest high-speed warhead test
BY: Bill Gertz June 11, 2015 5:00 am

China this week carried out the fourth test of an ultra high-speed nuclear delivery vehicle that conducted what intelligence officials say were extreme maneuvers.

The test of the Wu-14 hypersonic strike vehicle was carried out Sunday, launched atop a ballistic missile fired from a test facility in western China.

It was the fourth successful test of the Wu-14 in the past 18 months and the frequency of tests is being viewed by U.S. intelligence analysts as an indicator of the high priority placed on developing the weapon by the Chinese.

Earlier tests took place last year on Jan. 9, Aug. 7, and Dec. 2. The Washington Free Beacon first reported the tests.

The new strike vehicle is considered a high-technology strategic weapon capable of delivering nuclear or conventional warheads while traveling on the edge of space. One of its key features is the ability to maneuver to avoid U.S. missile defenses.

The Wu-14 was assessed as traveling up to 10 times the speed of sound, or around 7,680 miles per hour.

Unlike earlier tests, the latest test demonstrated what one official called “extreme maneuvers” that appeared to analysts designed for penetrating through missile defense systems.

Current U.S. missile defenses are limited to knocking out missiles and their warheads with predictable ballistic trajectories that can be tracked with relative ease by satellite sensors and ground and sea radar.

However, the Wu-14 threatens to neutralize U.S. strategic missile defenses with the unique capability of flying at ultra high speeds and maneuvering to avoid detection and tracking by radar and missile defense interceptors.

The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency has repeatedly declined to comment on whether current U.S. missile defenses can defeat maneuvering targets.

A congressional China commission stated in a report published in November that China is working on hypersonic arms as “a core component of its next-generation precision strike capability.”

“Hypersonic glide vehicles could render existing U.S. missile defense systems less effective and potentially obsolete,” the report said.

In addition to the glide vehicle, China also is developing a second hypersonic weapon the uses a high-technology scramjet engine.

The Pentagon and China’s defense ministry confirmed the earlier tests. Asked about the latest test, however, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jeff Pool declined to comment on the test, citing a policy of not discussing intelligence matters.

However, specialists on China’s military buildup say the latest test is another significant milestone for Chinese long-range strike capabilities.

“With four tests in about a year and a half, it is possible that China could conclude development of an early version for deployment in one to two years,” said Rick Fisher, a China expert with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

Former Pentagon official Mark Stokes, also a China weapons specialist, said the People’s Liberation Army and China’s space and missile industry have been conducting engineering design work on a boosted hypersonic glide vehicle for some time.

“Certification of the design requires prototype testing of the post boost vehicle, which is probably what’s going on,” said Stokes, now with the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank.

“Fielding of a hypersonic glide vehicle would advance the PLA’s ability to hold U.S. targets at risk, as well as those of allies and partners,” Stokes added.

Lora Saalman, a professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, the latest Wu-14 test indicates the weapon is a high priority.

“This test is keeping in line with China’s fast-tracking of this program and efforts to expand not just the range but also the capabilities and maneuverability of the system,” she said.

Fisher said he suspects an early version of the Wu-14 will be launched atop a DF-21 medium-range ballistic missile, although in the future it would be carried by the 2,485-mile range DF-26.

“Perhaps the most important U.S. antidote for China’s hypersonic maneuvering warhead is U.S. energy weapons programs,” Fisher said.

“There is an urgent need to increase funding to accelerate the early deployment of rail gun weapons.”

Rail guns fire shotgun-style pellets at hypersonic speeds that create pellet clouds that can be used to damage or destroy Chinese hypersonic warheads.

“It is urgent that the U.S. speed the deployment of rail guns to defend aircraft carriers, large combat ships, and major U.S. military facilities in Asia,” he said.

“The U.S. also needs to accelerate the development of its own hypersonic weapons, ground, air, and sea-launched, to deter China’s use of these weapons.”

The current House version of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill calls for the Pentagon to conduct advanced technology war games, including those involving hypersonic strike systems.

The bill includes $291 million for an extended-range variant of Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile defense system to deal with hypersonic threats.

“The committee is aware of the rapidly evolving threat from potential adversaries’ development of hypersonic weapons,” the report on the bill says, noting China’s several recent tests.

“The [Armed Services] committee believes this rapidly emerging capability could be a threat to national security and our operational forces,” the report said.

The Army has conducted two tests of its Advanced Hypersonic Weapon and in the latest test the missile launcher blew up shortly after liftoff.

The committee called on the military to develop hypersonic targets to improve U.S. defenses.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman did not return an email seeking comment.

In the past, China’s government has called the hypersonic tests normal military experiments.

Source: Washington Free Beacon “China Conducts Fourth Test of Wu-14 Strike Vehicle”

China’s Lunar Program for Weapon Development, Colonization of Moon

In my post “China Conducts Lunar Ship Return Test for Hypersonic Weapons” on October 23, I said: the lunar spaceship does not fall on the ground and then rest on its pit like a meteor. It hit the ground and then bounces back into the air and falls down again.

That was based on CCTV report on October 22.

However, Global Times said in its report on October 24: According to Zhang Wu, deputy chief designer of the lunar spacecraft launched this time, the spacecraft will go half a circle round the moon and then return to the earth.

Due to the acceleration caused by the gravity of the earth, the speed of the spacecraft increases to 11 km per second, i.e. Mach 36. After it goes lower into the atmosphere to slow down, the flight control will make it rise up above the atmosphere and then reenter the atmosphere so that it may land on the earth at an acceptable speed.

By so doing, China will obtain key technology and data related to the reentry with high speed, including the design and data related to orbit, pneumatics, heat resistance, navigation guidance and control.

The open purpose of the flight is to make preparations for the next lunar test to send a spacecraft to land on the moon to collect samples of the soil on the moon and bring them back to the earth.

However, the secret purpose is to achieve the hypersonic speed of Mach 36 and obtain the key technology and data related to the hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) at the speed that so far an HGV cannot achieved if launched from the earth.

The test is very useful for an aerospace bomber flying at a relatively high orbit around the earth diving down to hit targets on the earth. Due to gravity, its speed will be greater than the speed of March 23 when it flies on its orbit. The bomber shall be able to control its missiles at such high speed. The heat resistance materials shall be able to protect the bomber and its missile and enable them to remain intact when they hit their targets. Moreover, the bomber shall be able to rise back above the atmosphere to circle round the earth again.

From the above description, we can see that the test flight of the lunar spacecraft is highly related to China’s development of hypersonic weapons.

We have US media Foreign Policy’s report “Beijing, We Have a Problem: Is India surpassing China in Asia’s space race?” making comparison between Indian’s success in sending a spacecraft to Mars and China’s recent test of lunar spacecraft.

It shows American media’s mentality. The US incurred lots of expenditures in its lunar program for the only purpose to be better than the Soviet Union in landing people on the moon without bringing any economic benefits from the moon. So is India now. It wants to show that it is better than China by sending a spacecraft to Mars without bringing back any benefit.

China’s lunar program aims at obtaining practical benefits. First, it enable China to obtain technology for its weapon development. Second, the program will finally enable China to establish a colony on the moon to exploit the resources there.

That indicates Chinese leaders’ wisdom in refraining from pursuing the vanity to be the number one in the world or to show China is better than any other country. Just be practical to be benefited from what they do.

I hope that they will not be affected by India’s space race with China but persist in achieving their aims of weapon development and lunar colonization. They shall not have any Mars ambition now as so far there has been no technology at all to colonize Mars.

The following is the full text of Foreign Policy’s article:

Beijing, We Have a Problem
Is India surpassing China in Asia’s space race?
BY Kim Wall
OCTOBER 28, 2014

Call it a mark of maturity. Without much fanfare, China launched an unmanned, unnamed spacecraft on Oct. 24, possibly paving the way for a more sophisticated moon vehicle in 2017. But this milestone comes less than a month after India’s celebrated Mars mission reached its destination. In the court of public opinion at least, Beijing looks unlikely to top it.

Delhi’s first interplanetary probe Mangalyaan (“Mars craft” in Hindi) became a worldwide media darling, a classic underdog story. The odds were not in its favor: two-thirds of all Mars missions had failed, including China’s most recent attempt in November 2011. After six loops around earth, an innovative and inexpensive slingshot effect flung the satellite into orbit nearly a year ago, vaulting India into the global elite space club. While India’s main space agency, the Indian Space Research Organization, insisted the launch had nothing to do with Beijing’s extra-orbital attempts, merely getting off the ground was a victory: one small step for India’s shoestring space program, one giant leap for its self-esteem.

The scientific urgency of Mangalyaan is questionable: surveying the Red Planet’s atmosphere and surface (which the NASA spacecraft Mariner-4 photographed back in 1965) for just six months will likely add little to the world’s understanding of outer space. “It is as if the thirty-first scientist to voyage to the Galápagos Islands had stayed only a couple of days, sketched one or two of Darwin’s finches, and then left,” wrote Indian journalist Samanth Subramanian in the New Yorker.

And yet Prime Minister Narendra Modi (fittingly, in a red vest), basked in the glory: India, he said on the day Mangalyaan reached Mars, is a future “world guru” who had “achieved the near impossible” and become “a shining symbol of what we are capable of as a nation.” When NASA’s Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars in August 2012, congratulated Mangalyaan on Twitter, it replied confidently: “Howdy @MarsCuriosity? Keep in touch. I’ll be around.” The cheapest Mars mission ever, at $75 million — three-quarters the cost of Hollywood space blockbuster Gravity, and less than the first U.S. stealth-jet attack on Syria — Mangalyaan has boosted Modi’s “made-in-India” vision. And it’s an ideal time, as the new prime minister has come to power amid grand promises of an Indian renaissance.

India’s foray may be remedial and its scientific value sketchy, but it puts the country alongside the three superpowers — United States, the European Union, and Russia — that have reached Mars. The subcontinent’s press, convinced that India went to Mars to show China it was still a worthy rival, rejoiced in unabashed nationalism. They may have unwittingly launched a space race. But it’s relatively friendly for now.

Beijing wasn’t “jealous,” nationalist newspaper Global Times sulked in late September: “no country can claim to be a leader in every arena.” (Hua Chunying, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson, was more diplomatic, calling Mangalyaan a “pride of Asia” and refusing to rule out future cooperation.) China does not disclose its spending on space — “a black hole,” experts joke — but it likely far exceeds Delhi’s.

Space exploration, of course, is not the only geostrategic sphere in which India and China jostle. Their rivalry for influence, markets, and energy resources, plays out in Africa, Latin America, and the Indian Ocean, and their shared border along the Himalayas has been the site of recurring standoffs since the 1962 Sino-Indian war. Nowadays, China wins in most departments: its economy is bigger, its growth faster, its poverty levels lower, literacy rate higher, and military more powerful than India’s.

For India, haunted by inferiority complexes vis-a-vis its giant neighbor, space offers a chance at redemption: next up, a manned mission and a pan-South Asian satellite.

The space club, like the nuclear club, equals great power status: a PR-coup to wash off the “developing country” brand, with spin-off benefits for both the national economy and defense.

The space club, like the nuclear club, equals great power status: a PR-coup to wash off the “developing country” brand, with spin-off benefits for both the national economy and defense. The aerospace sector embodies national aspiration. Who could aim higher than the stars? “India and China have large populations that they are struggling to bring out of decades of poverty and underdevelopment,” said James Clay Moltz, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School and author of the 2011 book Asia’s Space Race. “Space represents a symbol of modernity and advancement.”

If this is the Asian Century, its space age may well be Asian, too. Cash-strapped and overstretched, America’s pre-eminence in space is no longer a given. No human has been to the moon since 1972: the next time this happens, it seems increasingly likely to be an Indian or Chinese astronaut. Asia’s obsession with space is a logical extension of rapid economic growth, increasing power, and an appreciation for science, says Bharath Gopalaswamy, space analyst at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center. “It’s communicating ‘you can do this too,'” to its own population, he adds. It encourages “people to embark on scientific projects that might seem impossible.” And, says Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Dean Cheng, space has great spinoff benefits for militaries, especially with regards to information systems and surveillance.

It isn’t just India trying to keep up. Other new kids on the block with recent launches of satellites and rockets include Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan, among others. Russia talks about another lunar mission. South and North Korea both dispatched satellites in 2013, the former setting a 2020 deadline for a lunar rover. And Iran propelled a monkey into orbit in preparation for a human spacecraft by 2020.

Outer space is currently collaborative: the International Space Station, the largest artificial satellite in orbit, has been manned since 2000 by a joint 14-nation effort, though most of the funding comes from the United States. But when the money dries up in 2020 — the same year India and China have hinted they would like to launch manned spacecrafts — this short era of international space cooperation may come to an end.

Asian ventures — unlike the 20-nation European Space Agency, the continent’s collaborative space program — are largely self-reliant and government-run. For now, they are intrinsically tied to nationhood and identity. For India and China, autarky was both a necessity and a choice, with the former suffering technology apartheid since its 1974 nuclear test and the latter banned by U.S. legislation from cooperating with NASA. Either way, their ability to reach space independently only amplifies bragging rights. (When they met in September, Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a memorandum of understanding on the “peaceful use of space,” though it’s difficult to see that handshake deal leading to actual cooperation between their countries.)

China’s own space station is set to become operational as the International Space Station reaches retirement in 2020. The Chinese outpost could then become, as the Global Times triumphantly noted, “mankind’s only foothold in space.”

Notoriously fond of mega-projects, Beijing’s gravitation towards the final frontier seems logical: inheriting space hegemony as ultimate proof of its arrival as a superpower.

Notoriously fond of mega-projects, Beijing’s gravitation towards the final frontier seems logical: inheriting space hegemony as ultimate proof of its arrival as a superpower.

And superpowers can get carried away by national pride. In a 2012 book, Indian space analyst Ajey Lele called Asia’s space competition “the most exceptional and widespread security dilemma in the world,” with risky constellations including India-Pakistan, China-India, and Sino-Japan, and the Koreas. The United Nations condemned North Korea’s space launch as a disguised ballistic missile test (attempts to condemn Iran’s on similar grounds were blocked by China and Russia); similarly, China’s decision to shoot down one of its own dead satellite in 2010 caused alarm in Washington and in neighboring capitals, over fears that space junk could litter near-earth orbit and concerns that the technology could be could lead to a regional arms race.

While space has always signaled not-so-subtle nuclear readiness (after all, what are rockets if not long-range missiles?) the real concern today, Cheng argues, is technology that can disrupt other countries’ space assets. Such technologies, so far only demonstrated by China, seem straight out a 1970’s James Bond film: satellites with robotic arms that could take out other probes, techniques to bump other satellites off course, shoot them down, or blind them with lasers. But other countries are not far behind. China’s decision to invest in offensive space technology, says Moltz, means India is now increasingly focusing on the military space realm as well.

Unsurprisingly, India and China downplay the military aspect. The Asian space age, Modi implies, is not like its the ones that came before it anyway. “In contrast with the linear nature of Western philosophy; there is no absolute ‘beginning’ or ‘end’ in our Eastern understanding of the cosmos,” the prime minister said after Mangalyaan reached the Red Planet — only “a continuous, unending cycle of dispassionate, detached perseverance.”

But watching this extraterrestrial competition from Europe or the United States, however, it’s hard to be dispassionate about its potential implications.

Source: Foreign Policy “Beijing, We Have a Problem: Is India surpassing China in Asia’s space race?

Source: Global Times “What are the difficulties in lunar spaceship’s landing on earth by playing ducks and drakes (lowering and rising movements): Both US and Soviet Union have conducted such tests but not so difficult” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

Related posts:

  • China Conducts Lunar Ship Return Test for Hypersonic Weapons dated October 23, 2014
  • China, Russian Sign Agreement on Cooperation in Space Technology dated October 20, 2014

China Conducts Lunar Ship Return Test for Hypersonic Weapons

China will send an unmanned spacecraft to near the surface of the moon and then return to earth at the speed of 11 km per second from 24 to 26 October.

That is certainly a test for China’s planned unmanned travel to moon to take samples back to earth in 2017. However, what is exceptional is that the spaceship does not first come back to an orbit around the earth and then land on the earth. By so doing, the spaceship enters the atmosphere at the speed less than 8 km per second. However, the spaceship is to enter the atmosphere at the speed of 11 km per second.

Moreover, the lunar spaceship does not fall on the ground and then rest on its pit like a meteor. It hit the ground and then bounces back into the air and falls down again.

Why? In spite of the much greater challenge, it can test how a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) performs in atmosphere. China has tested an HGV that has achieved a speed of Mach 10, i.e. 3.3 km per second. It is certainly better that the Mach 5 plus achieved by a US HGV, but the speed is too slow compared with a hypersonic missile fired from an aerospaceplane flying at the speed of 7.8 km per second. Therefore, the lunar test tomorrow will provide lots of data for China’s further development of hypersonic weapons especially the performance of the heat resistant materials China has developed for its aerospaceplanes and hypersonic missiles.

That is why SCMP says in its report today on China’s test tomorrow, “The latest probe might set a record re-entry speed for China, according to a spacecraft researcher at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, who asked not to be named.

“The researcher said the mission was similar to the military’s development of a hypersonic vehicle to carry missiles to the edge of the earth’s atmosphere before returning to ground at huge speeds.”

That is why I said in my book Space Era Strategy, “China’s lunar space program is a civil program on the surface but the ability to track, identify and rendezvous with satellite obtained in the program are useful in China’s ASAT technology as proved by the said three satellites. Obviously, Chinese military is acquiring lots of technologies to improve its space and counter-space capabilities through its lunar program.”

Niu Hongguang, deputy director of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Armaments Department, was shown in CCTV footage as saying “The reentry vehicle Changzheng 3C has passed all the tests and completed joint drills of the test, control and communications systems in all the areas. Three Yuanwang survey ships have already arrived at the sea areas for their tasks. The recovery search troops have already entered the landing site at Siziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia.”

Source: “China to Conduct its first test of sending spacecraft to moon and back” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

Source: SCMP “China poised to send spacecraft ‘to moon and back’”