China this week carried out the fourth test of an ultra high-speed nuclear delivery vehicle that conducted what intelligence officials say were extreme maneuvers.
The test of the Wu-14 hypersonic strike vehicle was carried out Sunday, launched atop a ballistic missile fired from a test facility in western China.
It was the fourth successful test of the Wu-14 in the past 18 months and the frequency of tests is being viewed by U.S. intelligence analysts as an indicator of the high priority placed on developing the weapon by the Chinese.
Earlier tests took place last year on Jan. 9, Aug. 7, and Dec. 2. The Washington Free Beacon first reported the tests.
The new strike vehicle is considered a high-technology strategic weapon capable of delivering nuclear or conventional warheads while traveling on the edge of space. One of its key features is the ability to maneuver to avoid U.S. missile defenses.
The Wu-14 was assessed as traveling up to 10 times the speed of sound, or around 7,680 miles per hour.
Unlike earlier tests, the latest test demonstrated what one official called “extreme maneuvers” that appeared to analysts designed for penetrating through missile defense systems.
Current U.S. missile defenses are limited to knocking out missiles and their warheads with predictable ballistic trajectories that can be tracked with relative ease by satellite sensors and ground and sea radar.
However, the Wu-14 threatens to neutralize U.S. strategic missile defenses with the unique capability of flying at ultra high speeds and maneuvering to avoid detection and tracking by radar and missile defense interceptors.
The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency has repeatedly declined to comment on whether current U.S. missile defenses can defeat maneuvering targets.