Milley Says China Hypersonic Missile Launch ‘Very Close’ to ‘Sputnik Moment’

Milley Says China Hypersonic Missile Launch ‘Very Close’ to ‘Sputnik Moment’

Military vehicles carrying DF-17 hypersonic missiles drive past Tiananmen Square during the military parade marking the 70th founding anniversary of People’s Republic of China on its National Day in Beijing, China, October 1, 2019. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley compared China’s launch of a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile to a “Sputnik moment” in an interview on Bloomberg Television on Wednesday.

“What we saw was a very significant event of a test of a hypersonic weapon system. And it is very concerning,” Milley said on Bloomberg‘s The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations. “I don’t know if it’s quite a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to that. It has all of our attention.”

Milley was responding to a question on China’s suspected launch of a hypersonic missile in August, first reported by the Financial Times. The missile was reportedly equipped with a glide vehicle that could help it to outmaneuver U.S. missile-defense systems.

China, Russia, and the U.S. are developing such technology, although the reported launch demonstrated that China had more advanced capabilities than U.S. intelligence realized, according to the Times.

Raytheon CEO Gregory Hayes said the U.S. is “at least several years behind” China in developing hypersonic weapons, in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Tuesday.

“As we go forward—over the next 10, 20, 25 years—there’s no question in my mind that the biggest geostrategic challenge to the United States is gonna be China,” Milley said on Wednesday. “They’ve developed a military that’s really significant.”

Milley’s remarks come several weeks after the first head of software at the Pentagon, Nicolas Chaillan, resigned in protest at the military’s handling of technological development.

“We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years. Right now, it’s already a done deal; it is already over in my opinion,” Chaillan told the Times. “Whether it takes a war or not is kind of anecdotal.”

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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