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ChiComs Text X-43 Knockoff
By Harold Hutchison

Roughly six months after testing the Wu-14 hypersonic missile, there are now reports that the ChiComs have been trying to develop a second hypersonic weapon. This system, though, will be more familiar to Americans, as it is a knockoff of an American system tested about ten years ago.

The X-43 being launched from a NASA B-52. The ChiComs are reportedly developing a knockoff of this system.
(NASA photo)

According to a report by the Washington Free Beacon, the new ChiCom hypersonic weapon tested is a knockoff of the X-43, a powered hypersonic vehicle that was tested twice in 2004 reaching speeds of 4600 miles per hour. The X-43 uses a scramjet engine to obtain those speeds. The X-43 program was shut down in favor of the X-51 Waverider program (pictured below), which has conducted a number of test flights, with the first being in 2010, and one in May 2013 putting the vehicle at a speed of over Mach 5 for 210 seconds – about three and a half minutes.

Hypersonic weapons are a game-changer, largely because they shorten the window for defensive systems like Aegis or Patriot to knock them down. The higher speeds – over Mach 5, and with some reports indicating speeds of Mach 10 – will also provide a lot more kinetic energy when they do hit their target.

Russia currently has a hypersonic weapon, the Kh-15, known to NATO as the AS-16 “Kickback,” in service on its Tu-22M Backfire, Tu-160 Blackjack, and Tu-95 Bear bombers. Armed with either a nuclear or conventional warhead, it has a range of about 160 miles. The United States Navy’s RIM-161 surface-to-air missile, the SM-3, has a top speed of 6,000 miles per hour – well into hypersonic territory.