A hypersonic weapons test carried out by China in July featured technology that enabled a missile to be fired mid-flight as it was traveling at least five times the speed of sound.
No other country has been able to carry out the feat — with the advanced hypersonic test catching Pentagon scientists off guard, intelligence sources told the Financial Times on Sunday.
The test involved a nuclear warhead-carrying spacecraft firing off a separate missile while traveling over the South China Sea.
Experts at Darpa, the Pentagon’s advanced research agency, are still unsure how China managed to successfully fire the missile given that the spacecraft was traveling at hypersonic speeds, the sources said.
Defense officials have been investigating the data ever since the test — which was first reported last month — was carried out on July 27.
“This development is concerning to us as it should be to all who seek peace and stability in the region and beyond,” a National Security Council spokesperson said.
“This also builds on our concern about many military capabilities that the People’s Republic of China continues to pursue.”
The Chinese embassy denied knowing anything about the hypersonic missile test, saying, “We are not at all interested in having an arms race with other countries.”
“It went around the world, dropped off a hypersonic glide vehicle that glided all the way back to China, that impacted a target in China,” he said.
Hyten warned the advances meant China could one day launch a surprise attack on the US.
“Why are they building all of this capability?” Hyten said. “They look like a first-use weapon. That’s what those weapons look like to me.”