Washington: China's recent test of a hypersonic weapon system is "very close to a Sputnik moment", United States' chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said. On a Bloomberg TV interview that aired on Wednesday, Milley said that the test was "a significant technological event occurred", Al Jazeera reported.
Milley was referring to the Soviet Union's launch of a satellite in 1957 that signified their substantial lead in the "space race" with the US then. But Milley added that China's weapon system development is very concerning.
Analysts have said that just like the Sputnik launch, China's test could start a technological race between the "superpowers into hyperdrive", Al Jazeera says.
Financial Times had reported last week that China had conducted two hypersonic weapon system tests. It said that China launched a rocket that has a "fractional orbital bombardment" system to propel a nuclear-capable "hypersonic glide vehicle" around the Earth for the first time. Analysts said that the weapon systems could extreme quickly deliver payloads, evade radar systems and likely could outstrip the US' current capabilities.
Milley's comments represent the public acknowledgement yet from a US defence official of the tests and their implications. US president Joe Biden had said he was concerned after initial reports of the tests surfaced.
However, China denied testing a hypersonic weapon but said it was testing a reusable space vehicle.
Milley also said in the interview that the US is also experimenting and developing in hypersonic, artificial intelligence, robotics, etc. Days earlier, Pentagon also announced that it conducted three tests on components of a US hypersonic weapons system.
But, the head of the major defence contractor, Raytheon, warned the US on Tuesday that the country is several years behind developing the technology tested by China.
Milley added in the interview that the US would have to adapt as Chinese technology and weapons capability were expanding rapidly.