State Department spokesperson Marie Harf was flummoxed when asked about China's recent test of a hypersonic missile system designed to bypass U.S. missile defenses Wednesday in the State Department press conference.
The Washington Free Beacon's Bill Gertz broke the story on Monday:
China’s military last week conducted the first flight test of a new ultra-high speed missile vehicle aimed at delivering warheads through U.S. missile defenses, Pentagon officials said.
"Hypersonic aerospace flight vehicles exemplify the merging of the air and space domains from both operational and industrial perspectives," Stokes said.
Stokes, an analyst with the Project 2049 Institute, said Chinese military reports indicate that its hypersonic glide vehicles will travel from the edge of space at speeds ranging between Mach 8 and Mach 12, or between 6,084 miles per hour and 9,127 miles per hour.
Such speeds would challenge the current system of U.S. missile defenses. Those defenses include a combination of long-range interceptors, medium-range sea and land-based interceptors, and interceptors designed to hit incoming missiles closer to targets.
The reporter jokingly remarked she thought Harf would know "all about" hypersonic missiles given her background. Harf replied she would have to take the question and check with State Department officials for a reaction:
REPORTER: New subject?
MARIE HARF: Yeah.
REPORTER: On China, China's flight-tested a hypersonic missile delivery vehicle.
HARF: What is — that's interesting. Hypersonic — I don't know what that is.
REPORTER: We'll find out.
HARF: We'll find out.
HARF: Were you asking for a reaction? I —
REPORTER: I figure with your background, you'd know immediately.
HARF: I know. It's strange. Usually, I know all about those types of missiles. I'm happy to check. I'm sorry. I don't have anything for that.
REPORTER: No, well, I mean, it looks as though the question would be, then, whether you were notified or you think that — you know, what your reading is of this. Beijing said that it was scientific in nature and not targeted at any country.
HARF: OK. Well, I will check with our team. Thanks for the question, and I'm sorry I don't have anything for you.