As China’s People’s Liberation Army moves to modernise its strike and nuclear deterrent capabilities, the military has carried out the first test of a new hypersonic glide vehicle - the Sky Star 2. Appearing in many ways similar to the recently inducted Russian Avangard, a platform unveiled in March 2018 with a speed of Mach 20, the new weapons system has reportedly been designed to ensure the continued viability of the country’s strategic nuclear deterrent. With U.S. made air defences having struggled to intercept ballistic missiles travelling at subsonic speeds, and designed to combat platforms travelling at under Mach 3, the development of a hypersonic glide vehicle comparable to the Russian Avangard provides an effective means of ensuring a continued ability to deliver nuclear strikes to the United States mainland regardless of any anticipated future developments in the field of air defence.
China’s Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics reportedly tested the Sky Star in the country’s north west on August 3rd, and the platform successfully separated from its launch vehicle and engaged in high altitude maneuvering during a brief ten minute test flight. Alongside their phenomenal speeds new hypersonic vehicles tested by China, much like those of Russia, have emphasised a high degree of in flight manoeuvrability to ensure their ability to thwart enemy air defences. The similarities between the a number of recent platforms tested by the PLA and those being developed by Russia itself have led to much speculation that the two nuclear powers are cooperating closely in the field of missile development alongside their close air defence cooperation.
China's Sky Star 2 reportedly uses shock waves generated by its own flight as a lifting surface - improving its lift relative to its drag. While the sheer kinetic energy imparted by the weapon’s impact is enough to devastate most targets, the platforms can also carry nuclear payloads. Russia’s Avangard is set to deploy a single warhead of several megatons - enough to kill millions with a single strike on a major population center - and the Sky Star may well follow a similar path. The new weapon’s capabilities make it a potentially highly effective complement to the country’s newly inducted DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile, much as the Russian Avangard complements the Sarmat (Satan 2). While the Avangard is expected to see its first deployment in 2019, the Sky Sword 2 should enter service in the early 2020s.