China announced this week that it will build the world’s fastest hypervelocity wind tunnel by 2022.
Once built, the JF-22 tunnel will be able to simulate flying conditions at about 30 Mach, or 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) a second, and contribute to the development of hypersonic and aerospace vehicles, Global Times wrote.
The facility will also be used for testing hypersonic weapons. Hypersonic aircraft and weapons are capable of speeds more than Mach 5. Militaries around the world are keen to develop hypersonic weapons, as they are reportedly capable of breaching conventional missile defense systems.
China Decades Ahead of West
Chinese Academy of Sciences researcher Han Guilai was quoted in a lecture as saying that the tunnel, coupled with an existing facility in Beijing, “would put China about 20 to 30 years ahead of the West.” The tunnel has been in the making since 2018.
China’s first hypersonic wind tunnel, the JF-12, was built in 2012. It’s capable of simulating flying conditions of Mach 5 to Mach 9. The facility has reportedly helped Beijing with major aviation and space missions.
American Testing Facilities
By comparison, the US announced this month the construction of a hypersonic technology testing facility at the Purdue Aerospace District. The proposed facility will have “two separate testing streams that handle 3.5-5.0 Mach range tests and tests in the 4.5-7.5 Mach range.”
America currently has the LENS II (Large Energy National Shock Tunnels) as its most advanced wind tunnel, capable of simulating flights of Mach 3 to 9 for up to 30 milliseconds, Asia Times quoted Guilai as saying. Guilai stated that the JF-22 can sustain much faster flight simulations for 130 milliseconds.