China Expands Military Capabilities with Hypersonic ‘Near-Space Command’
Recent reports point to a significant advancement in China’s military capabilities, with the establishment of a new ‘near-space command’ focused on hypersonic technology. The term ‘near-space’refers to the region of Earth’s atmosphere lying between the conventional operating levels of aircraft and orbital spacecraft, typically 20 to 100 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. This area holds strategic value due to its potential for high-speed travel and reduced radar detection.
Expanding Military Might
Hypersonic technology pertains to vehicles capable of exceeding five times the speed of sound (Mach 5). These vehicles are highly maneuverable, making them challenging to detect and intercept. The incorporation of a ‘near-space command’ indicates a noteworthy advancement in China’s military capabilities, potentially altering the strategic balance concerning global military power and raising concerns among other nations about security and arms control implications.
Navigating the Near-Space Battlefield
The ‘near-space command’ is set to operate in a unique battlefield. Actions undertaken in sensitive areas or over other nations’ territories may incite political or diplomatic reactions, necessitating a shift in decision-making power upwards. As researchers from the National University of Defence Technology point out, this would include daily combat readiness operations for the near space force’s stratospheric airships, long endurance unmanned aerial vehicles, and other platforms.
Hypersonic Weapons: A Double-Edged Sword
China’s realization that hypersonic weapons are a double-edged sword is significant. These weapons, designed to target any location on Earth with unstoppable speed and maneuvering capabilities, pose challenges in politics and international relations. However, the ‘near-space command’ also operates a large number of spy balloons, solar-powered drones, and other supporting equipment. These automated platforms operate at low speeds but can remain at high altitudes for weeks or even months, delivering critical services such as surveillance and communication relay.
The force’s primary duty will be to aid China in the event of a war. Hypersonic weapons will target heavily protected critical military assets such as giant antennas and major communication hubs in an adversary’s heartland. The loss of critical infrastructure in the early stages of a conflict could weaken an enemy’s war machine, severely affecting its ability and willingness to fight. This could change the pace of battles and significantly impact a war’s outcome.
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