China moves forward at blistering speed In Hypersonic Weapons Program

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Vaibhav Agrawal
Vaibhav Agrawal
Vaibhav Agrawal is the founder editor of Bhraman (a Digital Travelogue). As an independent journalist, he is passionate for investigating and reporting on complex subjects. He has an extensive background in both print and digital media, with a focus on Travel and Defence reporting. *Views are personal

With the ability to simulate the air resistance encountered by a plane or missile travelling many times greater than the speed of sound, a large calibration test of a one-metre hypersonic aerodynamic wind tunnel has been successfully carried out by China, as per sources.

The development of the new wind tunnel has been announced by the Aerodynamics Research Institute under the state-run Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). The airflow distribution calibration tests under major Mach numbers have been cleared by the wind tunnel which is called the FL-64 which has the capability of simulating the extreme speeds and temperatures encountered by hypersonic weapons. 

In order to test the “separation and release” of weapons from hypersonic vehicles, the new wind tunnel shall be used, as per a press statement issued by the institute. In layman words, a hypersonic glide vehicle is simply a manoeuvrable warhead that sits on the tip of a long-range missile and thereby glides to its targets on an unpredictable course hence, making it difficult to intercept once unleashed.

All about the FL-64 Wind Tunnel

Considering the statement, around 2 years of time was spent by the FL-64 in order to develop and break construction speed records in comparison to similar equipment while since it involves hypersonic requirements, such as high temperature, pressure, and speed, the wind tunnel becomes big and complex.

As per an AVIC statement, the diameter of the FL-64 is twice that of the institute’s first equipment while, on the other hand, under a total temperature of 900 Kelvin or 626.85 degrees Celsius, flight speeds from Mach 4 to 8 at an altitude of 48,000 metres can be simulated.

Including the separation and deployment of weapons from aircraft and testing the aircraft’s hypersonic capabilities, it can operate for more than 30 seconds.

Along with becoming another major instrument in assisting the development of hypersonic weapons and equipment, the FL-64 intends to tackle critical aerodynamic challenges faced by various aircraft, with a foothold to serve China’s aerospace goals. 

JF-22 Wind Tunnel

Apart from the above, a JF-22 hypervelocity wind tunnel capable of simulating Mach 30 speed is also being constructed by China and shall be complete by 2022 as planned, as earlier reported by the EurAsian Times.

While China’s first hypersonic wind tunnel, the JF-12, has the capability to simulate flight speeds ranging from Mach 5 to Mach 9, Beijing is said to have benefited from this tunnel’s assistance with key aviation and space operations.

Besides other aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles, the ground tests for the country’s most advanced J-20 stealth fighter jet and the DF-17 medium-range hypersonic missile have been boosted by the active JF-12 wind tunnel.

A silent rivalry between the US and China

With China coming in second, the United States still continues to lead in wind tunnel projects while one should also note that around a dozen tunnels have been constructed by AVIC and its affiliate ARI in the past six decades.

Earlier it was also announced by the United States that a hypersonic technology testing centre would be built at the Purdue Aerospace District. That said, currently, the LENS II (Large Energy National Shock Tunnels), is America’s most advanced wind tunnel which is capable of recreating Mach 3 to 9 flights for up to 30 milliseconds, according to a report released by the Asia Times.


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