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Chinese state-owned television aired footage of a high-altitude balloon dropping hypersonic weapons in 2018.
The stunning footage displays a high-altitude balloon, not dissimilar from the one that traversed over the United States last week, carrying three hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) into high altitude and dropping them for testing.
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported on the weapons test in September 2018. The footage has since been deleted from Chinese media, but photographs and short clips can still be found online.
In one post from 2018, a Twitter user shared footage from Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, which shows the balloon lifting the three HGVs from the ground.
Screenshots from this Douyin short video. pic.twitter.com/XvhnzMhhY7
— dafeng cao (@dafengcao) September 21, 2018
HGVs are generally launched by rockets in a similar manner to traditional missiles. Upon reaching orbit, however, HGVs detach from the rocket and fly through the atmosphere using their own momentum.
Such weapons are much faster than other missiles while they are in low orbit, but become much slower upon hitting the dense air of the atmosphere as they have no jets to power them. The three HGVs dropped by the balloon in the footage appear to have been designed to test this phenomenon.
The balloon-dropped HGVs were part of an effort to develop precision warheads for hypersonic weapons, which would give the Chinese military an “unstoppable nuclear-capable weapon,” according to the South China Morning Post.
Balloons One Part of China’s War Preparations
Paul Crespo, president of the Center for American Defense Studies, said that the balloon which traversed U.S. airspace this week could “absolutely” be a dry run for an attack using a balloon-mounted weapon, but that hypersonic missiles would likely not be a first choice for China’s communist regime.
“While China has tested hypersonic missiles launched from balloons in the past, that isn’t a likely use for these airships,” Crespo told The Epoch Times in an email. “The biggest threat is sending one or more of these high altitude balloons over the U.S. with a small nuclear EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) device.”
“Detonated at extremely high altitude, they could knock out power and communications across the US, wreaking widespread havoc for a year or more without firing a shot on the ground.”
Though Crespo did not believe that balloon-dropped hypersonics would be the next big thing in a nuclear conflict, the HGVs dropped in the footage may well have contributed to the development of the hypersonic weapon system secretly tested by China in 2021.
That system, then-Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten said, appeared to be intended for a “first-use” nuclear strike against the United States.
“They look like a first-use weapon,” Hyten said.
“The pace [China is] moving and the trajectory that they’re on will surpass Russia and the United States if we don’t do something to change it.”
Communist China is not alone in developing novel ways to use high-altitude balloons as weapons of war.
The United States has researched and tested the use of such balloons for deploying swarms of explosive-laden suicide drones since at least 2018.
The Pentagon is also investing tens of millions of dollars into high-altitude balloons that it intends to use for surveillance and, notably, hopes to use to track the CCP’s hypersonic arsenal.
The Epoch Times has requested comment from the White House and Pentagon.
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