WU-14 conducted its first flight test on January 9, 2014, as reported by Washington Free Beacon on January 14, 2014. On January 15, 2014, the Chinese Defense Ministry confirmed the test in a two-sentence statement faxed to news agencies and state-run media in Beijing.
The Free Beacon said the test made China the third country after the Russian Federation and the 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). China is also believed to be developing a hypersonic scramjet version that can be launched from air or ground.
The HGV is intended to be less susceptible to anti-ballistic missile countermeasures than conventional reentry vehicles (RVs). Normal RVs descend through the atmosphere on a predictable ballistic trajectory - their high speeds makes intercepting them extremely difficult. By the late 1980s, however, several countries began to develop interceptor missiles designed to destroy ballistic RVs. A hypersonic glider like the HGV could 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 (if the initial attack failed) reengaged. Gliding makes it more maneuverable and extends its range.
A vehicle like the WU-14 could be fitted to various Chinese ballistic missiles, such as the DF-21 medium-range missile (rumored to be called DF-26 with the HGV payload), and the DF-31 and DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missiles, 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.
The HGV stays within the stratosphere and glides through the air. Although that creates more drag, warheads fly further than they would on a higher trajectory through space, and are too low to be intercepted by exo-atmospheric kill vehicles. The tradeoff is that warheads have less speed and altitude as they near the target, making them vulnerable to lower-tier interceptors. Potential counter-hypersonic interception measures may involve laser or rail gun technologies.
- Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 – a similar US test vehicle
- Rockwell X-30
- Boeing X-51
- Prompt Global Strike
- Second Artillery Corps
- "Hypersonic arms race: China tests high-speed missile to beat U.S. defenses".
- "Chinese Defense Ministry Confirms Hypersonic Missile Test".
- "China confirms hypersonic missile carrier test".
- China’s Hypersonic Aircraft Fails Second Test Launch - En.Ria.ru, 22 August 2014
- China Conducts Third Flight Test of Hypersonic Strike Vehicle - Freebeacon.com, 4 December 2014
- "Chinese Hypersonic Strike Vehicle May Overcome US Missile Defense: Expert". SpaceDaily. 8 December 2014.
- "China's New Hypersonic Strike Vehicle Takes Flight Again". SpaceDaily. 8 December 2014.
- U.S. Navy Sees Chinese HGV As Part Of Wider Threat - Aviationweek.com, 27 January 2014
- Introducing the Ballistic Missile Defense Ship - Aviationweek.com, 11 April 2014
- U.S., China in Race to Develop Hypersonic Weapons - Nationaldefensemagazine.org, 27 August 2014