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MI6 Helped Chinese Hypersonic Missile Scientist Defect to West, Report Claims

Published: January 27, 2022
Military vehicles carrying DF-17 missiles participate in a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing on October 1, 2019, to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Peoples Republic of China. (Image: GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)

A Chinese rocket scientist with intimate knowledge concerning China’s recently unveiled hypersonic missile technology has reported defected to the United Kingdom along with his family and is apparently now under the protection of the CIA.

The rocket technician, a Chinese national in his 30s, with ties to China’s state owned Aviation Industry Corp of China, reportedly helped develop China’s mid-range hypersonic boost-glide vehicle, a missile delivery system that can circumvent the globe and deliver a payload practically anywhere on earth. 

The scientist defected not because of political grievances with Beijing but because he was passed over for promotion, Express reported. 

An intelligence asset familiar with the matter told reporters that “his decision to make contact wasn’t taken on ideological grounds but rather in a firm belief that his talents should be recognised and more greatly appreciated.”

In late September last year, the scientist approached a British intelligence asset in Hong Kong and disclosed that he possessed detailed information about China’s hypersonic glide vehicle. Secure in the knowledge that he would face execution, should he be apprehended by Chinese authorities, the scientist requested asylum for himself, his wife and child. 


MI6 assigned a three-person team to his case composed of two intelligence officers and a technical specialist and informed their counterparts in the United States, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), of the defection.

MI6 operatives were initially skeptical and reportedly thoroughly investigated the defector in order to eliminate the possibility that he could be a Beijing plant. 

Once his story was confirmed, MI6 concocted a plan to get him and his family out of China developing a special route to transport them to a secure location.

He was met by the MI6 team in Hong Kong as well as two operatives working with the CIA, was debriefed, then flown out of the country to a U.S. air base in Germany. He then traveled to the United States via the UK and is presumably under the protection of the CIA. 

‘A position we did not expect’

The defector is said to have significant personal knowledge of China’s hypersonic missile technology and that he even managed to smuggle out some technical data. 

Hypersonic missiles can travel at blistering speeds in excess of Mach 5, making them all but impossible to defend against with current anti-missile technology. The missiles do not even need an explosive payload to cause significant damage. The kinetic energy these missiles create could destroy many targets without the need for an explosive payload. 

To date, Russia and China are the only two countries that have successfully tested hypersonic missile technology and North Korea has claimed to have the tech but experts are doubtful. Recent tests by the United States have been unsuccessful. The defector may be a boon for the development of hypersonic missile tech in the United States.  

An intelligence source said, “The fact we are in possession of certain details about the operational capability of this hypersonic glide missile puts us in a position we did not expect to be in at this time,” given the West’s current lag in development of the weapons.

“It will probably buy us two years. We estimate it will take China two years to be able to make changes in its programme sufficiently substantial as to render this intelligence ineffective. In this sphere, two years is a very long time,” Express cited the source as saying.