China has sent alarm bells ringing in Washington following reports a hypersonic missile was sent into orbit in July. The nuclear-capable weapon can travel five times the speed of sound and does not follow a fixed trajectory, meaning it is almost impossible to be detected by radar systems.
Beijing and Moscow lead the way in the development of nuclear-capable missiles which are regularly tested and paraded by army chiefs.
The advancement of hypersonic rockets and the improvement of Artificial Intelligence, such as drones, has accelerated the shift away from conventional war methods.
The hypersonic missile test first reported in the Financial Times was denied by Chinese officials but is said to have caught US intelligence officials by surprise.
Washington Officials are reportedly concerned that a future conflict could be sparked by a communications outage or a so-called “cyber Pearl Harbour”.
Such a scenario could leave US ships as “sitting ducks for nuclear-armed hypersonic missiles swooping in from space”, the Telegraph reports.
The US is currently a distant third in the weapons race with Beijing and Moscow.
China has an arsenal of ballistic and hypersonic missiles – and just two weeks ago Russia successfully test-fired its weapon.
The Zircon missile, which can reach eight times the speed of sound, was fired from a nuclear-powered submarine and reached a target in the Barents Sea.
READ MORE: Biden sends new Brexit warning over Article 16 threat for hated deal
“We just don’t know how we can defend against that type of technology, neither does China or Russia.”
The US aims to produce its own hypersonic missile by the end of the decade and has invested more than $1billion into the military programme.
China has denied reports of deploying a hypersonic missile and said it formed part of a routine space check.
Nevertheless, Russia defended the actions and insisted Beijing has done nothing wrong.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “China is developing its arms systems within the framework of its international obligations.
“In no way does Russia break its obligations with regards to arms control and we only take measures aimed at ensuring our own security amid actions that the United States take under their missile defence programme.”
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said: “We watch closely China’s development of armament and advanced capabilities and systems that will only increase tensions in the region.”