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08:09 AM, December 2, 2019
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China Developing New Waverider Hypersonic Vehicle
DF-17 (image: Fan Lingzhi/GT)

China’s “Xingkong-2” currently undergoing trials, is the country’s first waverider hypersonic vehicle with its development starting a year prior to the DF-17.

Enumerating differences between the DF-17 and the Xingkong-2 (Starry Sky-2), Ma Jun, a military expert, told state-run CCTV that the latter "might use a different flight pattern to the DF-17.”

Designed by the China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the Xingkong-2 was successfully tested at a target range in Northwest China in August 2018, the academy announced then.

Ma added that Xingkong-2 is still in the trial phase and more tests are expected.

On October 1, on the occasion of National Day Parade, China showcased the DF-17 for the first time in public. Some presumed the DF-17 to be the final product of the Xingkong-2. First test of the DL-17 ballistic missile equipped with a hypersonic glide vehicle took place in November 2017.

“One distinctive difference between the Xingkong-2 and the DF-17 is that the former has a fairing (external structure added to increase streamlining) and the latter does not, making the two very different in appearance alone,” analysts pointed out. 

“The Xingkong-2 was only tested in 2018. So, it is not likely to enter Chinese military service as early as in 2019,” the analysts noted.

The CCTV program introduced two genres of hypersonic aircraft: one is a glide-boost, meaning the aircraft is propelled into the sky via a rocket and glides in the air using shock waves generated by its own hypersonic flight, while the other is air-breathing, meaning the aircraft uses a scramjet engine to provide thrust, Global Times reported Sunday.

“The DF-17 is said to be a glide-boost vehicle, but it is not known what type the Xingkong-2 might be, other than it could be different from the DF-17, although it was also propelled by a rocket,” said Ma.

“The US and Russia are striving to develop hypersonic weapons with both glide-boost and air-breathing technologies, as the two have different strengths and shortcomings. China will not fall behind and could develop multiple types of hypersonic weapons using different technologies in the future,” an expert said.

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