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China Conducts Fourth Test of Strategic Nuclear Delivery Vehicle

© AP Photo / Ng Han GuanA Chinese military vehicle carries a DF21 medium range ballistic missile.
A Chinese military vehicle carries a DF21 medium range ballistic missile. - Sputnik International
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China this week conducted the fourth successful test of a new hypersonic vehicle which is capable of delivering nuclear strikes and may be able to render US anti-missile defense systems "obsolete."

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, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

The vehicle executed "extreme maneuvers" that intelligence officials say are meant to test the ability to dodge US anti-missile defense systems.

Artist's rendition of the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, (HTV-2), released by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). - Sputnik International
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Sunday marked the fourth test in 18 months, after previous experiments last year in January, August and December, the Free Beacon reported. The frequency of the tests show China's commitment to developing the new weapon.

The Wu-14 travels high in the atmosphere on the edge of space while carrying nuclear or conventional warheads. The high-tech vehicle also can travel at speeds of up to 10 times the speed of sound or around 7,680 miles per hour.

US intelligence routinely monitors the tests, and Sunday was the first time the Wu-14 demonstrated "extreme maneuvers," according to one official who spoke to the Free Beacon. Analysts believe those maneuvers are designed to dodge missile defense systems.

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

"Hypersonic glide vehicles could render existing US missile defense systems less effective and potentially obsolete," the report said.

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

"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," Rick Fisher, a China expert with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said in an interview with the Free Beacon.

He added: "Perhaps the most important US antidote for China's hypersonic maneuvering warhead is US energy weapons programs."

Fisher said there is an "urgent need" for the United States to deploy rail-gun weapons, which fire shotgun-style pellets at hypersonic speeds, creating pellet clouds that can damage or destroy Chinese hypersonic vehicles.

The latest House version of the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill acknowledges the threat of China's hypersonic weapons, and calls for the Pentagon to conduct tests involving such systems. The bill also includes $291 million for a missile defense system to guard against hypersonic threats.

To date, the US Army has conducted only two tests of its Advanced Hypersonic Weapon; the latest test resulted in the missile launcher blowing up shortly after liftoff.

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