China makes world’s fastest wind tunnel to test hypersonic weapons

China makes world’s fastest wind tunnel to test hypersonic weapons
China is building the world’s fastest wind tunnel to simulate hypersonic flights of 12 kilometers per second as part of the country’s hypersonic weapons development program.

The tunnel will be completed in 2020, and will allow China to conduct ground tests of hypersonic aircraft, which could travel from China to the US in under 14 minutes, the South China Morning Post reports.  

Hypersonic aircraft are those that can reach speeds of Mach 5, which is five times the speed of sound.

"It will boost the engineering application of hypersonic technology, mostly in military sectors, by duplicating the environment of extreme hypersonic flights, so problems can be discovered and solved on the ground," said Zhao Wei, deputy director of the State Key Laboratory of High Temperature Gas Dynamics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

The tunnel will be able to generate the fast airflow by detonating tubes of a mixture of oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, which will create a series of explosions. The shockwaves will be channeled into the test chamber, which will be big enough to house an aircraft with a wingspan of close to three meters.

The current most powerful wind tunnel is in the LENX-X operated by Cal-span University at Buffalo Research Center, New York.

China carried out a number of successful test flights of its WU-14 hypersonic glider, which hit speeds of between Mach 5 and Mach 10. Australia, India, Russia and the US have also carried out tests on early versions of hypersonic aircraft.

The tunnel will be led by the same team that build the JF12 shock tunnel in Beijing that can replicated conditions from Mach 5 to Mach 9. The JF12’s lead developer, Juang Zonglin, won the annual Ground Test Award issued by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics last year for advancing “state-of-the-art large-scale hypersonic test facilities.”