Politics|China’s Weapon Test Close to a ‘Sputnik Moment,’ U.S. General Says
Gen. Mark A. Milley said the Chinese trial of a hypersonic rocket “has each of our attention.”
Oct. 27, 2021, 10:47 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON — A Chinese trial of a hypersonic rocket designed to evade American atomic defenses was “very close” to a “Sputnik moment” for the United States, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the president of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said connected Wednesday, the archetypal authoritative confirmation of however Beijing’s objection of its capabilities took American officials by surprise.
Two abstracted tests took spot this summer, conducted successful a manner that Chinese officials knew would beryllium highly disposable to American satellites. But the United States said thing astir it.
The trial was notable due to the fact that hypersonic missiles tin rapidly maneuver and change course, flying beneath low-earth orbit. They are virtually intolerable for existing American defenses, designed for intercontinental ballistic missiles that travel a predictable way into abstraction and re-enter the atmosphere, to intercept. The Chinese trial was conducted successful a mode that made it wide the hypersonic rocket could beryllium launched to spell implicit Antarctica; existing American defenses are each pointed westbound and northbound implicit the Pacific, meaning they would beryllium useless successful countering an onslaught from the south.
“I don’t cognize if it’s rather a Sputnik moment, but I deliberation it’s precise adjacent to that,” Gen. Milley told David Rubinstein, the billionaire and philanthropist, who conducts an interrogation amusement connected Bloomberg Television. The tests, helium said, were a “very important technological event,” and helium said “it has each of our attention.”
Sputnik was the launch, successful 1957, of a Soviet satellite. It created fearfulness successful Washington that the Soviets were getting up successful the abstraction race, and led to President John F. Kennedy’s declaration that the United States would beryllium the archetypal to onshore humans connected the moon, an accomplishment that was reached successful little than a decade. But it besides spurred the atomic arms contention of the 20th century, which was lone tamped down successful the past 30 years, aft the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Now, the arms contention is threatening to revive. The United States has an progressive hypersonic programme of its own, arsenic bash Russia and, among others, North Korea. But the U.S. programme has tally into its ain method difficulties, and the Chinese trial — which appears to person not been wholly successful, either — whitethorn good signifier the ground of a caller arms race, astatine the precise infinitesimal that President Biden has been looking for ways to debar a projected trillion-dollar modernization of the American atomic forces and transportation systems.