China's military has conducted a second test, though an unsuccessful one, in its bid to develop a hypersonic vehicle to deliver nuclear weapons evading enemy's defence systems, a media report said today.
The test was held on August 7 at a missile and satellite launching facility in Shanxi province, about 300 kilometres from its capital Taiyuan, Hong Kong based South China Morning Post reported.
The vehicle broke up soon after its launch. It was the second time the People's Liberation Army has tested the system, the paper quoted two military sources as saying.
The first test took place on January 9, and it was confirmed by the National Defence Ministry as successful a few days later, the report said.
The latest model is designed to be carried by a ballistic missile to an undisclosed suborbital altitude, then released. The vehicle then dives towards its target at speeds of up to Mach 10, more than 12,000km/h.
The Pentagon has termed the Chinese vehicle WU-14.
The United States is the only other nation known to have developed similar technology. Russia and India are also known to be developing similar vehicles, the report said.
The defence ministry in Beijing did not respond to requests for comment, it said.
Wang Xudong, a satellite adviser to the Chinese government, said: "It's a necessary for China to boost its missile capability because the PLA's weapons are weaker than the US' shields, which are deployed everywhere in the world".
Professor Arthur Ding Shu-fan, the secretary general of the Taipei-based Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, said if Beijing successfully developed the vehicle, existing US missile defence systems might be rendered obsolete.
"The WU-14 will become China's global strike weapon that would cause a great threat and challenges to the US," he said.
A hypersonic expert told the daily in January that more than 100 teams from leading research institutes and universities were involved in the project.
"Developing [the vehicle] could definitely help China enhance its military deterrence, but Beijing will also stick to a no-first use nuclear doctrine," Beijing-based military expert Li Jie said.