The highest US military man, General Mark Milley, is very concerned about the tests China conducted last summer with a hypersonic missile weapon system, according to US media. In an interview on Bloomberg Television, Milley calls the tests “very significant” and “very worrying”.
Recently, The Financial Times reported that China conducted two tests in July and August, which, although it did not quite succeed, indicated that China is far beyond the development of a hypersonic weapon system than it was thought.
Hypersonic missiles pass through the atmosphere at an extremely high speed — at least five times as fast as the sound — and thus not through space, such as ballistic missiles. They are agile and can bypass defense systems. The US is working on this as well.
The news of Chinese developments would have surprised Americans, but there were few official reactions. Milley, the head of the joint chiefs of staff, is now publicly speaking his concern.
“I dont know if its really a Sputnik moment, but its very close,” he said in the interview. He refers to the Russian Sputnik launch in 1957, which showed that the Russian space program was far ahead of that of the US, resulting in a prolonged space race.
China contradicts that it has carried out hypersonic missile tests. According to Beijing, it was testing with a spacecraft that can be used over and over again.
But Milley assumes that the Chinese are taking huge strides and therefore thinks that the US cannot be left behind. “It has our full attention,” he said. “The Chinese are making rapid progress – in space, on the Internet and in the traditional domains of land, sea and air.”
“If we look forward to the next ten, twenty, twenty-five years, I have no doubt that China is our biggest geostrategic challenge.”
In terms of money, the Chinese spend much less on their armed forces than the US, but Milley places little value on those figures. He points out that labour costs in China are many times lower and that a lot of technology is being developed in state-owned commercial enterprises, which does not reduce those costs on the official defence budget.
“If you completely peel the onion and make a detailed analysis, youll see that Chinas and US budgets are much closer to each other than many people think,” Milley says.