China Prepares To Mass Produce Hypersonic Vehicles

According to the South China Morning Post, Beijing is in the development phase of constructing a state of the art hypersonic engine facility to mass-produce, low-cost planes capable of traveling five times faster than the speed of sound.

Screen capture from a video of a hypersonic vehicle using the combined cycle engine under development at China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. (Source: CCTV)

The manufacturing plant is set to be constructed in Hefei, China’s eastern Anhui province, which could give the country a considerable lead over Russia and the United States in the race for hypersonic technologies. As it is widely known to major global superpowers, the country who realize the first to possess these technologies will revolutionize their civilian and military programs.

The Institute of Mechanics, or Imech, is one of the largest hypersonic developers in China. The institute would “join hands” with the Hefei government to construct the engine manufacturing facility. This partnership allows Imech to scale up operations for commercial purposes. No completion date has been given to the general public. The region of Hefei was chosen because of its growing reputation as a significant science and technology hub in China.

In an attempt to stoke economic growth, Beijing recently unleashed a new wave of capital flowing to technological breakthroughs, in attempt to deviate far away from the country’s thousands of corporate zombie companies that are kept alive via state assistance.

Fan Xuejun, director of Imech’s “scramjet” division, told the Post the manufacturing plant would make engines for military or civilian customers.

In February, we reported on a group of Chinese researchers who revealed an ultra-fast hypersonic plane they say will be able to take dozens of people and tonnes of cargo – “anything from flowers to bombs, and likewise, passengers could be tourists or military special forces” – from Beijing to New York in about two hours versus a conventional commercial passenger plane that would normally take 15 hours.

Researchers say the I-plane’s two layers of wings will mean it can handle significantly heavier payload than existing hypersonic vehicles. (Source: SCMP)

Researchers familiar with Imech’s project believe that the hypersonic engine could be a blended engine, “a rocket-based combined cycle system,” said the Post, which is currently under examination at Imech’s ground facility in Huairou, Beijing.

“The system could use a conventional turbine engine for take-off and acceleration to supersonic speed – faster than the speed of sound – then fire up the scramjet to reach hypervelocity. A rocket would give the vehicle a final push to bring it up to orbital height. Researchers familiar with the project agreed that the engine, which puts three different types of propulsion technology in one package, could indeed significantly reduce the cost of space flight.”

A hypersonic weapon test experiment is conducted in a wind tunnel at the Institute of Mechanics. (Source: SCMP)

The Post believes that Russia, the United States, and China have “recently overcome the technical hurdles and achieved the long-term, stable operation of scramjet engines.”

According to Liu Hong, an expert fellow at the school of aeronautics and astronautics at Shanghai Jiaotong University, “China and the US could be neck and neck in the race to achieve a mass application of hypersonic technology, but both countries remain a step or two behind Russia.”

In March, we reported how Russian President Vladimir Putin said his new hypersonic missile could rip the West’s air defenses apart. The intercontinental hypersonic missile, Putin said, would fly to targets at 20 times the speed of sound.

“Putin is telling the truth,” Hong said. Though the hypersonic weapon tests in the US and China received the most media coverage, it was generally agreed among researchers that “the Russians are the leader in this field,” he said.

Hong said, “the rocket-based combined cycle system could be the first hypersonic power source” to be commercialized on a global scale because the program has been in development for many many years, and is now entering the matured phase.

“If [the Hefei plant] is taking the approach, which is relatively simple and mature, I think their goal for commercial production is possible. It is within the reach of current technology,” he said.

However, Imech is not alone in the world of hypersonic technologies. There are at least five other major state-owned research companies or government entities possessing such technologies.

“In 2016, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp said it was developing a hybrid space plane that would take off and land in a normal airport with a combined cycle engine.

Its major rival, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, launched a similar project called Teng Long, or soaring dragon, soon afterward.

In early March, the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Centre, the hypersonic weapon development branch of the People’s Liberation Army in Mianyang, Sichuan province, announced a successful test of a prototype spacecraft in the Gobi Desert, in Inner Mongolia. The vehicle was believed to be a hypersonic space plane. “

Each Chinese company in the hypersonic race “has a unique technological advantage,” Hong said.

“In the end I believe the government will scoop the cream of the technology of each project and put them together to build a high-performance vehicle,” he said.

Hong added, “Rapid advancement in hypersonic technology in recent years also has sparked interest in its potential application in non-military sectors.”

While China could be on the cusp of mass-producing hypersonic engines, and or aircraft, President Xi Jinping launched the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road. It seems as hypersonic technologies could play a critical role in Beijing’s implementation or governing of their new global economic system, which could be made possible through civilian and or military applications.

As we have stated before, hypersonic technologies could rewrite the geopolitical landscape, and as of right now — it seems that Russia and China are doing just that. Maybe it is time to rethink American exceptionalism?

Comments

thisandthat Stackers Tue, 04/24/2018 - 20:51 Permalink

We've come a long way since then, both in alloys/composites, as aerodynamics; x15 was pretty much as brute force an approach as it could be. Still is fundamentally so, until and unless you manage to use the atmosphere physics to your benefit, instead of just literally ram a wedge through it, but there's much more to it nowadays than just a rocket and a prayer.

In reply to by Stackers

spag thisandthat Tue, 04/24/2018 - 21:06 Permalink

whata the deal with keeping chinese zombie companies alive?

 

american zombies are given foodstamps and allowed to gorge until they lose the will to get up in the morning.

 

at least in the chinese model, people remain active and part of the working community. they may not produce a lot, but they retain some skills and some dignity and have a greater chance to move onto something better. who would you rather employ, a 400lb lardarse who has spent the last 3 years in front of a tv or someone who spent the last 3 years making one widget a day but keen to make more?

 
 

In reply to by thisandthat

Stuck on Zero spag Tue, 04/24/2018 - 21:44 Permalink

Pretty easy to knock out a hypersonic vehicle. They can't maneuver because they are very heavy and they have a huge signature so that a 5 Kg kinetic vehicle can hit them a few kilometers away. The really interesting missile developments now are the RIMs or tiny kinetic kill missiles. These are tiny but very fast. They are developing units for tanks that will knock out RPGs, artillery shells, and anti-tank rockets. They'll soon be on helicopters aircraft and ships. RIMs are already on many NATO ships.

In reply to by spag

DaiRR Mr Poopra Tue, 04/24/2018 - 21:40 Permalink

Right, this takes aeronautical engineering and materials science to a whole new level that I think is presently unattainable.  The double wing is a good way to handle the area rule, but a forward swept hypersonic wing?  That ain't happening at hypersonic speeds and pressures, even with active dampening, those wing tips that are now your leading edge are going to flap and twist like there's no tomorrow.  The chinks are welcome to prove me wrong, but I say it ain't happening.

In reply to by Mr Poopra

Parrotile Dilluminati Tue, 04/24/2018 - 20:28 Permalink

Russia AND China HAVE hypersonic vehicle technology, and HAVE developed flight prototypes. China has the WU-14 glide vehicle, Russia has the Zircon (3M22 - in production since last year - 1000km range, Mach 5-6), and Khinzal (Kh-47M2 - 2000km range, Mach 10(?), nuclear-capable, and manoeuvrable). Successfully tested this year, so "at a pinch" could be in production immediately if the need arose.

I seem to remember the US "plan" for a FIVE YEAR R&D programme (for the usual millions of taxpayer's dollars) a few days back.

Missed the boat, folks. In 5 years China AND Russia will have LOTS of DEVELOPED, FULLY OPERATIONAL (and in 5 years, probably significantly updated!) hypersonic missiles, so for the US it'll be game over where "Maritime Supremacy" is concerned.

In reply to by Dilluminati

WTFUD Parrotile Tue, 04/24/2018 - 21:40 Permalink

If you're American, you'd think they'd be asking where the $700 Billion Military Budget ends up . . . and it's still not enough, they need more.

Why not outsource the manufacture of 21st Century WMD's/Missile Programmes to Russia and save hundreds of $billions?

The US Empire seems helluva thirsty for MOAR.

In reply to by Parrotile

Parrotile WTFUD Tue, 04/24/2018 - 22:42 Permalink

As an Aussie, I'd far prefer our "Government" (that would be the one selected for us by GS) to be buying Russian aircraft than the "much vaunted" F-35. 

It might be nice to have aircraft that a) work well, and b) are considerably cheaper to buy AND maintain, and c) are very durable, with a long service lifespan. 

I'm always very mindful that there are more than enough MiG-21's still in use - and that there are companies making good money out of cockpit and avionics upgrades for this Vietnam War-era single-engined but Mach 2 capable aircraft, which was still produced by the Chinese as late as 2013 (as the Chengdu J-7)

In reply to by WTFUD

elixer8 Parrotile Tue, 04/24/2018 - 23:00 Permalink

I agree with the choice of Australia buying Russian planes. If Oz ever goes to war with Indonesia, with their Suk's, then Oz will be playing the part of the 'turkey' in the turkey shoot.

When the politicians were arguing over opening up the tenders for the new submarines to the whole world one politician spat something about 'maybe we will be buying Russian submarines' as if it was the most absurd idea which could be conceived.

And then he probably ran off to the US embassy for cocktails and to hand in his reports to the CIA.

All you can do is shake your head.

 

In reply to by Parrotile

Parrotile elixer8 Wed, 04/25/2018 - 02:59 Permalink

It was "very educational" to note that, during the early phases of bid selection for the replacement of the Collins Class boats, France was not considered. Germany and Japan were always the "preferred bidders".

France reneges on the construction of those two Helicopter Carriers for the Russian Navy, then "out of nowhere" France gets the sub contract. Surprise, surprise.

Funny how it is always "others" who decide who gets the Aussie taxpayer's dollars. What's the bet that the French boats will be even less reliable than their far from stellar predecessors.

In reply to by elixer8

Bring the Gold Parrotile Tue, 04/24/2018 - 22:45 Permalink

Also railgun tech and drone tech. Einstein had it right:

"I know not with what weapons WWIII will be fought, but WWIV will be fought with sticks and stones."

The kind of tech that might be unveiled in any true WWIII would be truly unimaginable and would almost certainly for the first time ever, slip the leash of human control (nano-tech, bio-tech, Robots which could include drones and AI. Weapons that can self-replicate...).

In reply to by Parrotile

HRClinton Tue, 04/24/2018 - 19:59 Permalink

Can they sell them to Iran?  Dancing Iranians want to know.

Saudis want them too, but their pilots don't need to learn how to land the planes.  ;-)

just the tip Tue, 04/24/2018 - 20:02 Permalink

According to the South China Morning Post, Beijing is in the development phase of constructing a state of the art hypersonic engine facility to mass-produce, low-cost planes capable of traveling five times faster than the speed of sound.

cool!

they do the research.  they do the development.  then we steal the tech.  just the opposite of the way it used to be.

Crawdaddy Tue, 04/24/2018 - 20:04 Permalink

China prepares to show off the tech that was handed to them by US tax payer funder MICs, to spawn more funding for slimbag US taxpayer funded MICs.

Just like the ruskies before. And Osammy. Oooo bad guys...give us denero.

The ass raping of taxpayers continues until Joe Schnitzpack rebels.

Oldwood Crawdaddy Tue, 04/24/2018 - 20:15 Permalink

The glory of manufactured money.

Massive debt is being used to ramp up all forms of technology, much of it that eliminates jobs.....and ultimately consumers, who inevitably will find themselves stuck with unpayable debt shunted of corporations onto "taxpayers".

We are using technology to dig our own graves.

In reply to by Crawdaddy