A top Chinese rocket scientist has defected to the United States with the help of the United Kingdom’s intelligence agency MI6, carrying with him vital pieces of information regarding China’s hypersonic, nuclear-capable missile program.

This defection is key for the United States and its allies in defending and developing its own arsenal of hypersonic weapons, where the military has been struggling to keep up with. The defector in question is affiliated with the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), a state-owned aerospace and defense company in charge of developing the Chinese Armed Forces’ weaponry. The AVIC was alleged to have obtained classified information from the Joint Strike Fighter program in 2009, information that they have allegedly used to make the Chengdu J-20 and Shenyang Fc-31.

In October 2021, it was reported that hypersonic missiles were now live and actively being tested in Beijing. These missiles are known to have nuclear capabilities, circling the Earth at low orbit, then speeding up toward their designated target. The US had underestimated the Chinese’s development for this technology and swore that it would keep up with the Chinese’s pace.

Why Is This Weapon So Important?

Hypersonic weapons are weapons that travel five times faster than the speed of sound. These weapons can fly as fast as 20 times the speed of sound as technology becomes more advanced. Ballistic missiles, which can either be short-ranged or launched sub-orbitally (Intercontinental ballistic missiles, ICBMs), travel at hypersonic speeds.