Pentagon files allegedly leaked by Jack Teixeira include a deeply troubling report about China‘s hypersonic missile program, and the revelation that a new missile believed to be capable of evading U.S. defenses has been successfully tested.
Teixeira, 21, was arrested on Thursday at his home in Massachusetts. He is believed to have shared hundreds of classified documents with friends on a Discord chat room between the fall and mid March.
Among them was a February 28 top-secret report from the Joint Chiefs of Staff intelligence directorate, The Washington Post reported.
They reported that three days previously, on February 25, China had successfully tested a new missile, named DF-27 – a hypersonic intermediate-range ballistic missile, in the Dongfeng series. All Dongfeng-series missiles are capable of delivering nuclear warheads.
The missile ‘possesses a high probability of penetrating US’ ballistic missile defenses, the report said.
The February 28 memo also revealed that last year the Chinese military, the People’s Liberation Army, deployed versions of the new missile that can attack land targets and ships.
Jack Teixeira, 21-year-old National Guard member, was arrested by FBI officials on Thursday for leaking classified US intelligence documents. One of the documents details the new Chinese missile
China released rare footage of its nuclear-capable, hypersonic missile DF-26 being launched during a military exercise. There are no images yet from the DF-27 test
DF-17 Dongfeng medium-range ballistic missiles equipped with a DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle, involved in an October 2019 military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the Chinese People’s Republic. The DF-27 is a new and improved version of the DF-17
Hypersonic missiles travel at more than five times the speed of sound in the upper atmosphere
The new missile has a hypersonic glide vehicle, designed to fly more than five times the speed of sound.
They can maneuver in flight, making them almost impossible to shoot down.
The DF-27 flew for 12 minutes and traveled 2,100 kilometers (1,300 miles), the leaked document revealed.
Its range is significantly more than that: a 2021 Defense Department report cited by The Washington Post said the DF-27 has a range of 5,000 to 8,000 kilometers, meaning that it can strike any target in East or Southeast Asia and large parts of the Pacific, including Guam.
Alaska is around 7,200km away: mainland U.S. is under 11,000km away, according to the latest annual Pentagon analysis, ‘Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China’. The report was published in November and cited by Newsweek.
‘The DF-27 is designed to enhance [China’s] ability to hold targets at risk beyond the Second Island Chain and possesses a high probability of penetrating U.S.’ ballistic missile defense, the report stated.
The First, Second and Third Island Chains are geopolitical terms, first identified by U.S. military planners in the 1940s, for a series of concentric semicircles stretching out from China.
The Second Island Chain references the area stretching from central Japan through the Marianas and Micronesia.
The third is centered on Hawaii. The first is closer to China, and runs from the far south of Japan through the South China Sea.
The United States is protected by a Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System (pictured)
The Chinese army is pictured on parade earlier this month. The leaked documents also detailed U.S. assessments of China, including its missile capabilities
China has long been known to be making rapid strides in its hypersonic missiles program.
The latest development, however, comes at a tense time, with rising fears about the safety of Taiwan.
The leaked documents also showed that China has for the first time recently used its new helicopter-carrying assault ship, Yushen LHA-31, in an extended deployment – another worrying update for Taiwan.
Last year it emerged that the Chinese military is developing a supersonic anti-ship missile that will be able to travel further and faster than any traditional torpedo.
The 16ft 5in missile will be able to go as fast as 2.5 times the speed of sound at about 32,800 feet for 124 miles before diving and skimming across the waves for up to 12.4 miles.
When it arrives within about 6.2 miles of its target, the missile will go into torpedo mode, traveling underwater at up to 100 meters per second using super-cavitation, which makes a giant air bubble around it, will significantly reduces drag.
The hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) DF-17 is seen in October 2019
China in November 2021 tested for the first time a ‘Fractional Orbital Bombardment System’ – a warhead delivery system that can evade conventional ICBM defense systems
China’s expansion into hypersonic missile technology and other advanced fields has raised concerns as Beijing becomes increasingly assertive over its claims to seas and islands in the South China and East China Seas, and to large chunks of territory along its disputed high-mountain border with India.
Hypersonic missiles travel at more than five times the speed of sound in the upper atmosphere, or about 6,200 km per hour (3,850 mph).
The United States and Russia are also developing hypersonic missiles, and North Korea said in August that it had test-fired a newly-developed hypersonic missile.
In October, the US Army and Navy successfully launched a rocket while testing a new class of hypersonic weapons at a seaside NASA facility.
NASA’s Wallop Flight Facility in Virginia hosted the test by Sandia National Laboratories which evaluated hypersonic weapon communications and navigation equipment as well as advanced materials that can withstand the heat in a ‘realistic hypersonic environment,’ according to a Navy statement.
The testing comes amid growing concerns Russia and China have had more success developing their own hypersonic weapons than the US.
The United States and its global rivals have quickened their pace to build hypersonic weapons – the next generation of arms that rob adversaries of reaction time and traditional defeat mechanisms.
The Pentagon’s 2023 budget request already includes $4.7 billion (£4 billion) for research and development of hypersonic weapons.
It includes planning that would have a hypersonic missile battery fielded by next year, a sea-based missile by 2025 and an air-based cruise missile by 2027.
The US Army and Navy successfully launched a rocket at a Virginia NASA facility on October 26 (pictured), the Pentagon confirmed
Russia has used hypersonic missiles ‘multiple’ times in Ukraine, according to the top U.S. commander in Europe.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged the country’s arms manufacturers to develop even more advanced hypersonic missiles to maintain the country’s edge in military technologies.
The Russian military has said that its Avangard system is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound and making sharp maneuvers on its way to a target to dodge the enemy’s missile shield.
It has been fitted to the existing Soviet-built intercontinental ballistic missiles instead of older type warheads, and the first unit armed with the Avangard entered duty in December 2019.
A high time for hypersonic missiles – but who has what?
Hypersonic missiles travel at more than five times the speed of sound in the upper atmosphere. The benchmark speed for a hypersonic missile is 3,850 mph – though the most effective ones travel much faster.
Hypersonic missiles are still slower than intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), but are generally maneuverable, meaning they are more adept at evading existing missile defence systems.
Darpa, the US army’s scientific wing, recently announced successful tests of what it called a HAWC missile (Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept)
The US military has a number of hypersonic weapons programmes across the Navy, Army and Air Force, but most are still in a developmental phase and remain closely guarded secrets.
The only US hypersonic weapon known to have been successfully tested is the Air Force’s GM-183 ARRW, which is designed to be launched from a large bomber aircraft.
It then accelerates to hypersonic speeds using a supersonic combustion ramjet to strike targets within 1,000 miles.
The Navy’s submarine launched Long Range Hypersonic Weapon is expected to be operational by 2023 and will have a range of 1,725 miles.
Darpa, the US army’s scientific wing, recently announced successful tests of what it called a HAWC missile (Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept) but kept details such as range, speed and payload secret.
The missile uses oxygen in the atmosphere as part of its fuel – marking the first successful test of that class of weapon since 2013.
The engine works by compressing incoming air with hydrocarbon fuel to create a fast airflow mixture, one capable of reaching over 1,700 metres per second, or five times the speed of sound.
Test-launch of an ‘unstoppable’ Zircon nuclear-capable Mach 9 hypersonic missile from Russian’s Admiral Gorshkov frigate
Russia currently boasts the world’s most advanced hypersonic missile technology.
Putin in 2018 announced Moscow had developed a range of nuclear capable ‘Avangard’ hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) which can travel at Mach 20 – speeds in excess of 15,000mph – with an effective range of thousands of miles.
Russia’s conventional hypersonic missile, the Zircon, has an effective range of around 620 miles, but the missile flies below the atmosphere and uses fuel to power itself to hypersonic speeds, unlike the Avangard which uses the Earth’s orbit to reach exceptional speeds before gliding through the atmosphere and striking its target.
Russia announced it has successfully test-fired the Zircon from a nuclear submarine for the first time earlier this year, when the 6,670mph weapon hit a target in the Barents Sea according to the Moscow defense ministry.
Russia’s armed forces had completed flight tests of the new-age missile from a frigate – the Admiral Gorshkov – and a coastal mount, and the missile is now expected to be deployed to Russia’s navy in the coming months.
Putin previously said the Zircon missile’s capabilities are ‘truly unparalleled anywhere in the world’.
Moscow is also known for its formidable ‘Satan II’ Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles, which can carry several nuclear warheads or can be used to deploy the Avangard HGVs over an effective range of 11,000 miles.
China launches its nuclear-capable, hypersonic nuclear missile DF-26 which ‘could reach US territory and sink aircraft carriers’ in a military drill
China last year reportedly tested a ‘Fractional Orbital Bombardment System’, or FOBS, developed to evade powerful US radar arrays and missile defence systems.
Missile defence systems work by detecting launches of ICBMs, tracking them into space, then firing at the warheads as they come down in the hope of blowing them up before they hit their targets.
This is possible because ICBMs and their warheads follow a predictable trajectory that rises high into space – making them relatively easy to spot and allowing defence crews to calculate where they are aimed so they can be shot out of the sky.
FOBS aim to negate these defenses by firing their warheads along a much-flatter trajectory – assisted by Earth’s gravity.
This means they pass under the scope of many radar detection arrays and are harder to track. It also makes the warheads much harder to shoot down because their trajectory is harder to calculate.
The use of orbit makes a warhead’s range potentially unlimited, meaning it can be fired at its target from any direction. This helps to avoid radar systems which generally point at a fixed spot in the sky – in America’s case, over the North Pole.
China in 2019 also unveiled a hypersonic medium-range missile, the DF-17, which has a maximum range of around 1,550 miles and is capable of achieving speeds of up to 7,680mph – or 10 times the speed of sound – while carrying a nuclear warhead.
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