BEIJING – China says it has perfected a new engine technology which will propel its weapons further and at incredibly fast speeds.
The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) has announced the successful development of a hypersonic ramjet engine after a series of eight test flights.
A report in the Global Times outlet of the state-owned People’s Daily states the revolutionary engine is now ready to be mated to a new generation of air-to-air missiles.
To qualify as ‘hypersonic’, the engine would have to move at more than 6200km/h.
Any missile moving at such speeds is likely to be impervious to existing defensive systems.
China has reportedly chosen to focus on solid fuels as they are more stable and don’t require complicated and time consuming fuelling processes. This means such weapons would be ‘on call’ for rapid deployment.
Ramjet engines have the ability to produce more energy from any given payload of fuel through sucking oxygen out of the atmosphere to burn, instead of carrying its own oxidisers. The rate of this oxygen supply can be controlled through the ramjet’s air intakes.
A similar ramjet research project by the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) appears to have stalled after a series of test flights ended in 2015.
Efforts have now focused on a new, Small Advanced Capabilities Missile which is not likely to appear before the 2030s.
China has reportedly been working on developing its reliable solid-fuel ramjets since 2000.
Such hypervelocity engines, when mated to existing missiles, could potentially triple their range. Existing 100km weapons could have their range extended to 320km. Up to six of these can be carried in the weapons bay of China’s new J-20 and J-31 stealth fighters.
Combined with long-range sensor networks, this would give Chinese fighters the ability to reach far behind the front lines to destroy vital support aircraft such as air-to-air tankers and early-warning radar platforms.