DF-17 Hypersonic Glide Vehicle: A Real Killer

The People’s Liberation Army on Oct. 1, 2019 revealed a new hypersonic missile that could pose a major threat to U.S. forces in the Pacific region.

The DF-17 hypersonic glide vehicle, or HGV, made its public debut as part of the PLA’s sprawling, 15,000-person military parade in Beijing commemorating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

While other countries also are working on hypersonic weapons — meaning powered or gliding precision-guided munitions that can travel faster than five times the speed of sound —  the DF-17 apparently is the first or second hypersonic glide vehicle in the regular inventory of any military. Russia claimed it also would deploy an HGV in 2019.

The 16 DF-17s that featured in the parade all were atop what appeared to be DF-16 medium-range ballistic missiles. In actual use, the DF-16 would boost the DF-17 to Mach five or faster, at which point the DF-17 would separate from the booster and angle toward its target, maneuvering to correct its course or evade enemy defenses.