TechChina flaunts new hypersonic missile

China flaunts new hypersonic missile

Xian H-6N bomber with YJ-21
Xian H-6N bomber with YJ-21
Images source: © Defence Blog
1:22 PM EDT, March 16, 2024

Recently, in China, a sighting of a Xian H-6N bomber carrying a distinctive weapon belonging to the local military caught attention. The Defence Blog highlighted that this was the first clear image showcasing the hypersonic missile YJ-21, a type of weaponry the USA is still struggling to develop.

The origins of the YJ-21 are shrouded in mystery. Speculation suggests it’s a missile created based on the CM-401—a Chinese hypersonic ballistic missile with approximately a 186-mile range—but significantly enhanced. Public information on the YJ-21 is scant.

What is known, however, is that the YJ-21's production began in 2022 (the extent of which is unclear), and it's primarily used for attacking land and naval targets from the air. As a member of the so-called "carrier killers," this missile boasts a range of up to 932 miles. YJ-21 can achieve speeds ranging from 6 Ma (4,598 mph) to a maximum of 10 Ma (7,673 mph), making it an exceptionally fast and manoeuvrable weapon that poses a significant challenge for air defence systems to intercept. The missile measures about 27 feet in length.

China's Hypersonic Weapon

The YJ-21 is often compared to Russia's hypersonic weapon, the Kinzhal Ch-47M2 missile, with good reason. They have comparable capabilities, including a similar range (about 932-1243 miles) and a maximum speed of 10 Ma.

In the competitive field of hypersonic weaponry, more than just China and Russia are vying for the lead. The USA, as observed by the Altair portal in 2022, has struggled for years to produce a comparable weapon. An interesting American counterpart is the hypersonic missile AGM-183 ARRW.

This is a program the US authorities have been developing since at least 2018. Nonetheless, the project faced setbacks after a failed weapon test on March 13, 2023. However, in a surprising turn of events in 2024, the Americans resumed work on the ARRW, as evidenced by a picture from Andersen U.S. Air Force Base in Guam showing a B-52 bomber carrying an AGM-183 missile link.

Despite still being in the developmental stage, the resurrected American project may surpass its competitors with the ARRW potentially reaching speeds of up to 20 Ma (approx. 15,225 mph). Interestingly, the American missile measures about 23 feet, making it comparable in size to the Chinese YJ-21.

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