China has successfully tested weapons that could hit US bases at any moment, a top Pentagon scientist warned last week.
China, the US and Russia are in a race to develop hypersonic missiles, and according to Paul Freisthler, the chief scientist at the Defense Intelligence Agency's (DIA) Directorate for Analysis, the east Asian nation has now pulled ahead of Putin and could hit US bases in the Pacific.
Speaking to Congress last week, Freisthler said: "Amid the backdrop of strategic competition, the events of the past several years demonstrate in no uncertain terms that our competitors are developing capabilities aimed to hold the US homeland at risk.
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"Hypersonic weapons, designed to evade US sensors and defence systems, pose an increasing and complex threat due to the availability of both nuclear and conventional capabilities, challing flight profiles, and maneuverability."
Hypersonic missiles are extremely quick, flying between five and 25 times faster than the speed of sound.
Some may be so speedy and maneuverable the West's air defence systems might not be able to pick them up.
Russia has used hypersonic missiles in its invasion of Ukraine and officials there have warned they have no defence against the bombs – but Freisthler says China's weapons are even more advanced.
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"While both China and Russia have conducted numerous successful tests of hypersonic weapons, and have likely fielded operational systems, China is leading Russia in both supporting infrastructure and number of systems," he said.
China is understood to have carried out successful tests of weapons with an estimated range of up to 1000 miles, already allowing them to hit the US' Pacific coast.
He also added that the nation is developing high-speed engines known as scramjets, which partially fuel themselves by sucking in the air around them and combusting it, threatening to make existing weapons even more powerful.
"China is pursuing an intercontinental ballistic missile with a hypersonic glide vehicle payload and has conducted several flight tests since 2014, including a test in July 2021 that circumnavigated the globe," he added.
The US has already successfully tested a scramjet, performing the trial back in January.
The Air Force has also developed a morphing MUTANT missile, which, it is hoped, will be able to knock hypersonic bombs out of the sky before they make impact with their intended target.
What that means for the UK, however, could be very different.
We have no such missiles of our own, but have launched a co-operative programme with Australia and the US to research and develop the weapons, meaning we could soon join the hypersonic race ourselves.
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