US military circles have responded to a test that the Chinese are said to have recently conducted with a hypersonic missile. Chief General Mark Milley spoke of a dangerous situation and called the launch almost comparable to the Sputnik moment. What did Milley mean by that comment and why is this missile so dangerous?
Sputnik, the year 1957
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite. It was just a simple device that would make measurements in the atmosphere and examine radio waves. The satellite also weighed only 33 kilograms. But every time Sputnik flew over the US it was a warning and a mockery. The Russians were further along in space technology than the Americans. US President Kennedy promised the American people that the US would catch up and be the first country to put a man on the moon. That promise was fulfilled. But of course it was not so much about space travel itself, but about the conquest of space. Anyone who could place objects in space could also use them militarily against a helpless adversary.
Star Wars and the Fall of the Soviet Union
The American president Reagan did not trust the Soviet Union at all and spoke regularly about it. He called Russia the realm of evil and wanted to make sure that the US was militarily stronger than that other world power. He called for the development of weapons in space. Ideas soon came to fruition. Lasers that could hit any point on Earth from space. Rockets that could drop a nuclear weapon on a city from satellites within seconds. A new commodity race seemed to begin that would also militarize space. But the Soviet Union gave up because the economy had already collapsed due to defense spending. The Soviet Union fell apart, as did the Warsaw Pact. But, of course, today’s Russia still has an enormous amount of nuclear weapons.
What is a hypersonic rocket?
A hypersonic rocket can reach a speed of 5 times the sound and therefore fly in a relatively low orbit around the earth. Such a rocket has no useful applications for space travel, but it does have military applications. A hypersonic missile can carry a nuclear weapon. Due to the enormous speed and relatively low trajectory, there is virtually no defense possible with current technology. Although the Star Wars plans were never implemented, the US has developed a missile defense system to protect the country against existing ballistic missiles with nuclear weapons. The extent to which this would actually succeed can only be tested with a real attack. Because the Americans would then strike back, a certain balance has been reached again. But if one of the parties develops a new weapon?
The hypersonic rocket is coming
The Chinese have denied that the launched rocket was of a hypersonic nature, calling it a spacecraft. However, all measurements from the US side seem to point to a successful flight of a new kind of missile. China is not the only country that is testing this type of missile. There are 5 countries currently trying to put the technology into practice, including the US. It is not known how far the development has progressed in most countries. The Americans are not making any announcements about this either. Only in North Korea is openly discussed developing and testing hypersonic missiles while the population is starving. The North Koreans claim to have conducted a successful test, but experts doubt this.