Officials affiliated with the AUKUS defense alliance and military technology partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, are gravely concerned about the DF-17 and its successor the DF-27. These are medium- and long-range ballistic missiles designed to be mounted onto the DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle.
A missile mounted onto the DF-ZF is allegedly able to fly at speeds of between Mach 5 and Mach 10, or 3,800 to 7,600 miles per hour. With a range of up to 5,000 miles, British officials within AUKUS are concerned because they may have been specifically designed to destroy aircraft carriers, including the U.K.'s flagship vessels, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and the HMS Prince of Wales; and the U.S.'s massive fleet of 11 aircraft carriers.
"The buzz phrase here is that 'speed is the new stealth,'" said one concerned official affiliated with AUKUS.
"China has prioritized this capability and has generated the world's leading arsenal of [hypersonic glide vehicles]. It has made dramatic advances in this area in the 2020s. Countering this threat is a priority for AUKUS," the official added. "Countering the delivery mechanism, which fires the missile, is more effective than countering the missile itself. We would have to hit the bases, hit the launch systems."
The U.S. Department of Defense has warned in its latest report to Congress that China may already have "the world's leading hypersonic arsenal." While the U.S. is making progress in developing its fleet of hypersonic weapons, efforts to create systems that can defend against Chinese hypersonic capabilities are not keeping pace with Beijing's advances. (Related: Despite Biden claiming otherwise, majority of Americans still view China as the "GREATEST THREAT" to the U.S.)
Many nations already have hypersonic weapons that can travel at speeds above Mach 5, or greater than one mile per second. However, Chinese hypersonic missiles present an additional challenge due to their greater speed, as high as Mach 10 in some cases.
In addition to their high speeds, the People's Liberation Army's developments in hypersonic glide vehicles, which can maneuver through the upper atmosphere after an initial ballistic launch phase, make China's hypersonic weapons near-impossible to track, let alone intercept.
To make matters worse, Beijing is in the process of developing hypersonic cruise missiles that use air-breathing engines such as scramjets, which can reach even higher speeds and can be maneuvered. This combination of impossibly high speeds and maneuverability presents a daunting challenge for existing U.S. ballistic and cruise missile defense systems, which consist of radars and interceptors.
The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency is investing in developing interceptors that can destroy adversarial hypersonic weapons. The goal of the program is to develop interceptors that can destroy hypersonic weapons while they are being transported by hypersonic glide vehicles and before they can begin their complex maneuvering into their terminal phases.
Unfortunately, the administration of President Joe Biden has only asked for $209 million for the country's hypersonic defense program in the 2024 fiscal year – less than half of the $515 million that the Pentagon spent in the 2022 and 2023 fiscal years combined.
Watch this episode of the "Hagmann Report" as host Doug Hagmann interviews Steve Quayle about how the next world war could be decided by nuclear warheads launched from hypersonic missiles.