The people’s Republic of China conducted a massive military parade in Beijing on October 1 where Beijing for the first time demonstrated the latest intercontinental ballistic missile Dongfeng-41 (DF-41) and the hypersonic medium-range ballistic missile Dongfeng-17 (DF).
If you believe Beijing, then it turns out that it was the brainchild of the Chinese revolution – the People’s Liberation Army of China (PLA) that was the first in the world to adopt the hypersonic weapon based on its own design.
Nowadays, hypersonic weapons technologies are being actively developed by the US, Russia, China, India, France and Germany. However, the question remains whether the Chinese are ahead of everyone in the race to develop the hypersonic weapons?
Most US military experts argue that the fundamental reason for the development of hypersonic technology in China is the need to confront specific security threats from increasingly sophisticated US military technology.
In China, experts are apprehensive that American hypersonic weapons will allow the United States to deliver a preemptive, decapitating strike on the Chinese nuclear arsenal and its supporting infrastructure. And the deployment of US missile defence in such a situation could limit China’s ability to retaliate against the US.
At the same time, China is demonstrating a growing interest in Russian advancements in hypersonic weapon technology. It is significant that the PRC conducted flight tests of its hypersonic aircraft immediately a few days after Russia tested its own system.
China is building-up hypersonic weapons not only to compete with the US but also to keep counter Indian efforts to build hypersonic missile arsenal. Until recently, China has not officially announced the final decision as to what type of ammunition the Chinese hypersonic missile will be equipped with – nuclear, or conventional, or capable of dual-use.
Prior to the current parade in Beijing, it was known that China had carried out a series of successful tests of the medium-range ballistic missile – DF-17 from the specifically designed heavy-duty truck as a launching platform.
The DF-17 has enviable mobility in its land deployment. According to the US intelligence, the flight range of the DF-17 was estimated in the range from 1,000 to 1,500 miles (about 1,600–2,400 km).
In the case of the DF-17, China has looked to build up a highly precise system. U.S. analysis of the missile’s first tests in November 2017 found an impressive degree of precision – with the test units apparently striking within metres of their targets.