China Conducts First Successful Flight of a Hypersonic Waverider Air Vehicle

Flying at the edge of the atmosphere waveriders use the shockwaves generated by their own hypersonic flight to glide at high speed.

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The wedge-shaped waverider bounces on the edge of the stratosphere, to maintain high speed and unpredictable trajectory path that makes it difficult for intercept by missile defenses.

China has successfully tested a hypersonic waverider air vehicle for the first time. The vehicle flew and maneuvered at a speed of Mach 6. The Xingkong-2 waverider type vehicle was launched on a missile and after separation from the rocket launcher the Xingkong-2 (Sky Star) accelerated to the hypersonic speed and performed several maneuvers before it dropped to the surface and recovered.

Flying at the edge of the atmosphere waveriders use the shockwaves generated by their own hypersonic flight to glide at high speed. The test flight took place at the target range located in Northwest China on Friday, August 3, 2018.

According to the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics that conducted the test flight Xingkong-2 was launched on a rocket and was released into the air. After separation it ascended to an altitude of 30 kilometers flying at Mach 5.5-6, (7,344km/h) speed for more six minutes, turning and making high-altitude maneuvers, according to the academy. At the end of the test, the flight vehicle was successfully recovered.

The wedge-shaped waverider bounces on the edge of the stratosphere, to maintain high speed and unpredictable trajectory path that makes it difficult for intercept by missile defenses. Designed by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics under China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the Xingkong-2 design could be adapted to carry conventional or nuclear weapons in the future.

Similar designs are in development in Russia and the USA. Russia is expected to mature a hypersonic reentry vehicle and integrate it with the new Saramat intercontinental ballistic missiles by 2019. The USA is also pursuing hypersonic weapons but their development is not as mature as the Russians or Chinese systems.