Is China's Mach 10 Missile a Game Changer?

Artist's conception of the HSSW, coming to a secure, undisclosed location near you by 2030. Source: Lockheed Martin

Good news, bad news -- which would you like first?

Actually, let's start with the good news. In December, we learned that U.S. defense contractor Lockheed Martin  (NYSE: LMT  ) is developing a new superfast, hypersonic bomber dubbed SR-72 (or more poetically "Son of Blackbird"). Traveling at heights of 80,000 feet, and speeds of Mach 6 and up, this futuristic warplane will launch missiles nearly as blistering-fast -- Mach 5 or better.

As Lockheed Martin tells it, the combination of a hypersonic SR-72, and its on-board High Speed Strike Weapon (HSSW) will be a true "game-changer" in modern warfare. Once the weapons systems go live in 2030, they'll be capable of striking an enemy at "nearly any location across a continent in less than an hour." What's more, Lockheed isn't even the only company working on such "scramjet" powered missiles. Boeing  (NYSE: BA  )  has one in development, too, the so-called X-51 WaveRider, and like Lockheed's rocket, it travels at Mach 5.

Boeing's version of Lockheed's HSSW -- the WaveRider. Source: Wikimedia Commons

But now here's the bad news:

China's got a hypersonic missile, too. And it's twice as fast as ours.

On Thursday, British newspaper The Guardian reported that China has just become the second country on the globe to conduct test flights of hypersonic missiles. The Chinese version, dubbed "WU-14," fired off on Jan. 9, and according to press reports achieved a speed of Mach 10, putting even the best U.S. hypersonics to shame.

So far, no many people seem eager to talk about China's test. Not the Chinese, who obliquely declined to either confirm or deny that the test took place, referring only to unspecified "planned domestic scientific research and experiments" that "are normal" and "not aimed at any country or target." Not the U.S. military, either, who did confirm that it was aware of the test that China won't comment on, saying only "we're aware of the test of the hypersonic vehicle."

One final bit of good news -- for defense contractors
In fact, it seems the only folks who do want to talk about China's new Mach 10 missile are members of the U.S. Congress -- three in particular, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon among them. Their take on China's missile, though, may be especially instructive: "While round after round of defence cuts have knocked America's technological advantage on its back, the Chinese and other competitor nations push toward military parity with the United States; in some cases, as in this one, they appear to be leaping ahead of us."

Already, Congress has allotted $200 million to the Pentagon researching hypersonics. Could be, that number is going to go up in 2014. As for how much it goes up, though... that probably depends to a great extent on just how successful China's tests are going.

Invest before it's "news"
China's hypersonic missile test was big news around the globe. But not all companies are as open and revealing about their secrets as... the Communist government of China. In fact, some of them are downright stingy with their secrets -- but never fear! Our top technology analyst recently infiltrated one of Wall Street's most exclusive gatherings and left with three incredible investment opportunities, straight from the CEOs. These are profit-building strategies Main Street isn't meant to hear about -- so you must act now before someone shuts us up. Click if you want "industry insider" earnings -- now!

Read/Post Comments (11) | Recommend This Article (14)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 19, 2014, at 6:11 PM, IndVoter008 wrote:

    Made possible by the politicians in the U.S. Congress, executives and lobbyists of Corporate America and U.S. Chamber of Commerce who made them do it, who ratified PNTR Communist China in 2000 knowing full well that this action will provide Communist China with the funding, technology and manufacturing know-how and all these with multiple applications; commercial, space and military. U.S. corporations also provided training for Communist Chinese engineers and technicians in high-tech manufacturing processes. Now the Communist Chinese have a robust economy, military and space programs while we are broke and cutting back military funding and pretty much on everything.

  • Report this Comment On January 19, 2014, at 6:33 PM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    I think we should worrying more about weapons that already (or soon will) exist -- like nuclear weapons in North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran, all fanatical countries that do not like us.

  • Report this Comment On January 19, 2014, at 8:41 PM, ilsm50 wrote:

    Defenses cut malarky. US outspends China by nearly 4 to 1 in terms of percent of world arms spending.

    The US' pentagon is further behind China in getting a financial audit of its war spending!

    The pentagon will spend $390B for 2400 F-35, and $35B for two new aircraft carriers. There are nearly 100 other super programs that total $1600B in purchases and development.

    In the region China competes with S Korea, Japan, Taiwan, India, Phillipines etc all of whom are in the top 15 spenders.

    It is not how much is spent but how much of the money is useless pork spent by Buck McKeon and crowd to get themselves elected.

    The control of hypersonic velicles is a big issue reaching high mach is quite easy,controlling the vehicle is not so easy.

    There are cheaper and easier ways to defeat Star Wars!

  • Report this Comment On January 19, 2014, at 9:25 PM, purealb wrote:

    shouldnt we be worried that we ourselves have this?

  • Report this Comment On January 19, 2014, at 9:38 PM, rocket7777 wrote:

    Evil war merchants probably intentionally let chinese hacker in for back side profit, or causing more usa funding.

  • Report this Comment On January 20, 2014, at 12:25 AM, kakaratsong wrote:

    China needs to be taught a lesson, a bit of its own medicine in the East China Sea and South China Sea. China is always so quick to remind us of Japan’s past, while forgetting its own atrocities. Let me remind them here. These are just a few examples. All these information are available online if you would just google and youtube.

    (1) From 1975-1978, China armed, funded, and fed the Khmer Rouge, and still doing so today, to commit genocide, murdering 6 million Cambodians within this short time. Ironically, many of those that were killed were rich, educated Cambodians of Chinese descent. Just a comparison, 2 million Jewish were murdered during all of WWII. When Vietnam invaded Cambodia to stop the genocide in 1978, China retaliated by invaded Vietnam, leaving 40,000 dead Chinese soldiers in Vietnam (they reported 10,000).

    (2) As recent as from 2003-2006, 480,000 people were killed in genocides in Darfur. As the result, the UN Security Council (China is a member of the permanent 5) issued sanctions and ban on the sale of weapons to any political, militia groups in Darfur. Yet, out of greed, China continues to illegally selling arms to various factions in Darfur, contributing to genocide.

    (3) In 1959, China invaded the peaceful kingdom of Tibet, killing 10,000 people, burned ancient temples and statues, and leaving millions of people in poverty or in displace. The PLA ostracized the Dalai Lama for speaking out, a holly figure in Buddhism that is as symbolic and important as the Pope.

    (4) In 1988, claiming some atolls in the Spratly island chain, PLA’s Navy murdered 78 unarmed Vietnamese sailors, and 2 cargo ships, that were working on building a guard tower.

    (5) 2008 – China issued a map, in the shape of a tongue, showing that it claims 80% of the South China Sea, leaving only 80 nautical miles of shorelines from Vietnam, The Philippines, and Brunei. The United Nations on the Law of The Sea of 1982 (UNCLOS), which China is a signatory member, allows countries to claim 200 nautical miles from its shore as their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). Yet, China denies other countries of their EEZ while extending China’s claims from 600-1000 nautical miles from their largest inhabited island, The Hainan.

  • Report this Comment On January 20, 2014, at 5:01 AM, tonybudz wrote:

    This is the way the world ends,

    This is the way the world ends,

    This is the way the world ends,

    Not with a bang but a whimper.


  • Report this Comment On January 20, 2014, at 7:04 PM, Expert01565 wrote:

    yep Motely Fools you have done it again,, Can you please stop writing you are all a bunch of No mention on how DARPA has reached Mach 20!! just horrible writing again by the true FOOLS, Why don't you stop writing because know one actually listens to

  • Report this Comment On January 21, 2014, at 4:55 AM, PsiKick wrote:

    Hypersonic technology is a scalable speed technology. Ours will go much faster too. There's no 'hypersonic' gap.

  • Report this Comment On January 21, 2014, at 8:58 AM, notohp2002 wrote:

    I few years ago read about the mach 6 aurora developed by the CIA. I think it was accurate info. it seems over the years the CIA has secretly developed many things, very advanced things.I think what we do is allow some secrets to trickle down to our unsecret industry to be redeveloped.

  • Report this Comment On January 25, 2014, at 9:28 AM, kitkit wrote:

    That can be easily destroyed by US's Boeing laser gunship.

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Rich Smith

As a defense writer for The Motley Fool, I focus on defense and aerospace stocks. My job? Every day of the week, I'm monitoring the news, figuring out the winners and losers, and tracking down the promising companies for you to invest in. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook for the most important developments in defense & aerospace, and other great stories.

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