HGVs are similar to traditional ballistic missile systems in that they can deliver a payload, be it conventional or nuclear, to a distant target. But HGVs fly at lower altitudes than typical ballistic missiles, meaning existing missile defense systems might initially miss them since those defense systems typically scan higher altitudes. There’s a functional tradeoff, however, because when HGVs start to descend, they fly much slower than traditional ballistic missiles. Some defense systems will likely be able to take HGVs into account with a few upgrades. However, countries with less developed defense technology might not be able to deal with this new type of weapon as easily.

The source told The Diplomat that the DF-17 is expected to be put into operation in 2020.

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