China’s recent test of a new ultra-high speed strike vehicle highlights growing concerns that Chinese military advances will overtake those of the United States in as few as five years, a senior Pentagon official told Congress Tuesday.
Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing that he is concerned by large-scale cuts in U.S. defense spending that are undermining efforts to maintain U.S. military superiority.
“On hypersonics, this is a good example of an area of technology that is going to move forward whether we invest in it or not,” Kendall told a hearing on the United States shift toward Asia. “China is doing work in this area.”
The Pentagon is investing some resources in two forms of hypersonic arms: a ballistic missile boost glide vehicle and a jet powered, atmospheric cruise missile, he said.
Kendall said the threat of such hypersonic vehicles to the United States is that they are difficult for missile defenses to counter. The vehicles travel and maneuver while flying at speeds of up to Mach 10 or 7,680 miles an hour.
“The high speed of these systems makes it much more difficult for air defenses to engage,” he said.
Kendall, in testimony on the Obama administration’s so-called “pivot” to Asia, said the Chinese development of hypersonic strike weapons is an area of technology that is likely to outpace U.S. efforts in the future.