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WU-14 is the Pentagon's code name for a Chinese hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) which conducted its first flight test on Jan 9th, 2014, as reported by Washington Free Beacon on Jan 14th, 2014.[1] On Jan 15th, 2014, Chinese Defense Ministry confirmed the test in a two-sentence statement faxed to news agencies and state-run media in Beijing.[2]

The Free Beacon said the test made China the third country after the Russian Federation and United States to have successfully tested a hypersonic delivery vehicle able to carry nuclear warheads at a speed above Mach 10 - or 12,359 kilometers per hour (7,675 mph).[3] China is also believed to be developing a hypersonic scramjet version that can be launched from air or ground.[4]

The HGV is more survivable against anti-ballistic missile countermeasures than conventional reentry vehicles. Normal RVs descend through the atmosphere on a predictable ballistic trajectory. Their high speeds made them unstoppable until the late 1980s, when land and naval-based interceptor missiles began to be developed to defeat ballistic warheads. A HGV can pull-up after reentering the atmosphere and approach its target in a relatively flat glide, lessening the time it can be detected, fired at, or reengaged if there is a miss. Gliding makes it more maneuverable and extends its range. The WU-14 could be fitted to various Chinese ballistic missiles like the DF-21 medium-range missile (rumored to be called DF-26 with the HGV warhead) and DF-31 intercontinental ballistic missile, extending their ranges from 2,000 km (1,200 mi) to 3,000 km (1,900 mi) and 8,000 km (5,000 mi) to 12,000 km (7,500 mi) respectively. Analysts suspect that the WU-14 will first be used in shorter-range roles as an anti-ship missile and for other tactical purposes to address the problem of hitting a moving target with a ballistic missile. Long-term goals may include deterrence of U.S. missile capabilities with the prospect of strategic bombardment against America, or other countries. With conventional interceptor missiles having difficulty against targets with late detection and maneuvering while traveling faster than Mach 5 (the WU-14 reenters the atmosphere at Mach 10), the U.S. may place more importance on developing directed-energy weapons as a countermeasure.[5]

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