China announced the successful completion of the JF-22 wind tunnel’s final evaluation on May 30, 2023, marking a significant milestone in the country’s pursuit of hypersonic capabilities.
Named the JF-22, the wind tunnel located in the Huairou District in northern Beijing is reportedly able to simulate flights of up to 10 kilometers per second or 30 times the speed of sound, making it the fastest in the world according to China’s Institute of Mechanics, its operator.
The JF-22’s construction began in 2018 and was completed in August 2021. The tunnel is 167 meters long and four meters in diameter. Unlike most other existing facilities which use mechanical compressors to generate high-speed airflow, the 265-meter-long wind tunnel relies on chemical explosions.
Officially, the facility will support the development of a space-to-earth shuttle system. But the tunnel may also be used for developing hypersonic weapons for Beijing. These weapon systems are designed to travel at speeds greater than Mach 5, which is five times the speed of sound or approximately 6,174 kilometers per hour (3,836 miles per hour).
The Chinese military already fielded several hypersonic weapons, such as the DF-17 and DF-21 ballistic missiles. The speed and maneuverability of hypersonic missiles make them extremely challenging to detect and intercept.