Beijing has claimed a successful test of new engine technology will soon allow it to develop hypersonic missiles.
If the ramjet engine was successfully miniaturised it would allow Chinese air-to-air missiles to strike their targets at more than 4,000mph – well into Mach 5.
The successful test is “a milestone in the field of engine research, which has been a bottleneck for China for quite a while”, according to Li Jie, a Beijing-based military expert, who spoke to state-owned paper the Global Times on Monday.
It will increase the firing range and mobility for both air-to-air and anti-ship missiles used by China’s stealth aircraft, including the J20 and J31 stealth fighters.
A team from a research institute affiliated with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the state-owned contractor behind the Chinese space programme, made the announcement.
They reported that two flight tests with the solid-fuel variable flow ramjet engine were completed in May.
Solid fuel ramjet engines have the ability to burn oxygen from the atmosphere, rather than needing to carry their own oxygen supply.
The hypersonic engines could potentially triple the range of existing missiles, allowing China’s J20 and J31 stealth fighters to carry six of the weapons with the ability to hit targets nearly 200 miles away.