China's Hypersonic Tests Close to 'Sputnik Moment': Gen. Mark Milley

China's recent tests of a hypersonic weapon came close to a "Sputnik moment," Gen. Mark Milley said on Wednesday in what was the United States' first public acknowledgement of the event that reportedly left American officials "stunned" this summer.

In an interview with David Rubenstein on Bloomberg Television, Milley, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called it a "very significant event" that was "very concerning."

Last week, the Financial Times reported that the Chinese military had conducted a pair of hypersonic missile tests in July and August. Unnamed officials told the paper that government scientists were surprised by the capability, which the U.S. doesn't currently possess.

China denied the event, saying only that it had tested a reusable spacecraft in July. Analysts, meanwhile, say the novel delivery system via space could evade American missile defenses and leave the U.S. vulnerable to Chinese nuclear weapons.

Milley volunteered the phrase "Sputnik moment," in reference to the satellite that propelled the Soviet Union into the space race ahead of the U.S. in 1957, adding: "I don't know if it's quite a Sputnik moment, but I think it's very close to that."

The event "has all of our attention," he told Rubenstein.

Two days before America's most senior uniformed official confirmed elements of classified U.S. intelligence, the Pentagon said China's attempts to advance its military capabilities "are only going to increase tensions in the region and beyond."

Milley echoed the viewpoint on Wednesday, saying: "But that's just one weapon system. The Chinese military capabilities are much greater than that. They're expanding rapidly—in space, in cyber and then in the traditional domains of land, sea and air."

China's armed forces, known collectively as the People's Liberation Army, are now "a very capable military that covers all the domains and has global ambitions," said the general. "So China is very significant on our horizon."

He declined to give specifics about the U.S.'s own hypersonic weapons program but said it was experimenting, testing and development technology "to include hypersonics, artificial intelligence, robotics and a whole wide range."

"If you take a step back, what we're in, history wise, is we're in one of the most significant changes in what I call the character of war," Milley added. "But today, with the introduction of precision munitions, the ability to see all over the world, artificial intelligence, robotics, hypersonics—all of these things together—this is an enormous change in the character of war. And we're going to have to adjust our military going forward."

Milley was also clear about China as posing the biggest threat to U.S. national security in the coming decades.

"As we go forward—over the next 10, 20, 25 years—there's no question in my mind that the biggest geostrategic challenge to the United States is going to be China. That I have no doubt at all," he said.

"I think China is clearly the most significant geostrategic threat we face," he added.

Mark Milley Confirms China Hypersonic Weapon Tests
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley (L) testifies before the House Armed Services Committee on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan, on Capitol Hill, on September 29, 2021, in Washington, D.C. OLIVIER DOULIERY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images