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Air Force Secretary says US in hypersonic ‘arms race’ with China

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall says the United States is in an “arms race” with China for developing hypersonic weapons. 

In an interview with Reuters, Kendall said the arms race is “not necessarily for increased numbers, but for increased quality.”

“It’s an arms race that has been going on for quite some time,” he continued. “The Chinese have been at it very aggressively.”

Washington has been on edge since the Pentagon confirmed that China had conducted a hypersonic weapons test over the summer.

Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff,  told CBS News last month that China launched a “long-range missile” which “went around the world, dropped off a hypersonic glide vehicle that glided all the way back to China, that impacted the target in China.”

Hypersonic weapons fly at roughly 3,850 miles per hour, or more than five times the speed of sound.

The U.S. has pursued developing hypersonic weapons since the early 2000s. In late October, the Army and Navy conducted three tests meant to aid services with hypersonic weapons development. 

Other nations the U.S. considers adversaries have tested hypersonic weapons this year. In September, North Korea said it tested a “detached hypersonic gliding warhead.”

Earlier this week, Russia’s military said it successfully test-fired its own hypersonic Zircon cruise missile.

Kendall told Reuters that as the U.S. has been focused on conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, it hasn’t been as focused on hypersonic weapons.

“This isn’t saying we’ve done nothing, but we haven’t done enough,” he said.

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