The development of hypersonic missile-delivery systems by China, Russia and the USA has raised concerns as to what warhead the high-speed, long-range delivery system would use, plus how regulations surrounding their use would manifest.
All three nations have hypersonic missile systems that they are in the process of developing, but “there are benefits and risks of boost glide technology”, James Acton, co-director of nuclear policy programmes at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has told the EU’s Non-Proliferation Consortium conference in Brussels.
China reportedly tested a system in 2014, while the USA has its Advanced Hypersonic Weapon and Conventional Prompt Global Strike programmes under way. The latter of these aims to develop a capability that can deploy a missile anywhere in the world within one hour.
“The big potential difference between Russia and China, and the US is that Russia and China may be interested in delivering nuclear weapons,” Acton said.
There are “very complex risks” involved with this, he says, and there is no credible way of distinguishing between a boost glide weapon and a guided ballistic missile.