Bhubaneswar: As China, Russia, and the US compete to produce manoeuvrable hypersonic weapons that fly over five times the speed of sound and can defeat missile defence systems, India tested its own hypersonic technology demonstration vehicle (HSTDV) powered by a scramjet engine on Friday, TOI reported.
The indigenous HSTDV was tested from the APJ Abdul Kalam Island off the coast of Odisha in the afternoon, according to sources.
This technology could one day be a vital component of hypersonic weapons that travel at speeds greater than Mach 5.
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However, neither the defence ministry nor the DRDO made any formal statements on whether the test was successful or not.
The initial launch and take-off was reported to be successful, according to a source cited by TOI. However, there are concerns regarding the HSTDV’s scramjet engine’s subsequent performance, for which the data needs to be thoroughly examined.
In June 2019, the HSTDV’s initial test was unsuccessful. However, the second one, which took place in September 2020, was successful in that the scramjet-powered “cruise vehicle,” or HSTDV, flew for 22–23 seconds at Mach 6 speed after separating from the “launch vehicle,” which was a solid rocket motor of an Agni–I ballistic missile, at a height of 30 km.
To build hypersonic weapons, which might happen in five to six years, flight tests will need to be substantially longer in duration — at least a few minutes.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh made it abundantly obvious that India intended to build hypersonic weapons when he instructed the DRDO to work quickly on creating such an arsenal in order to “maintain” the nation’s minimum credible deterrence against enemies, as was subsequently reported by TOI.
After testing a nuclear-capable missile with a hypersonic glide vehicle and warhead in July of that year, China issued the command.
Even the US has fallen behind China in the development of hypersonic missiles with nuclear warheads. In fact, it is believed that China and Russia are both ahead of the US in the development of aerodynamically manoeuvrable hypersonic missiles for use with nuclear warheads.
There are essentially two types of hypersonic weapons. First, hypersonic cruise missiles that are propelled throughout their entire flight by swift, air-breathing engines, sometimes known as “scramjets.”
Secondly, there are hypersonic gliders that are launched atop ballistic missiles and travel at speeds greater than Mach 5.
Due to their tremendous speed and agility, both vertically and horizontally, as well as their low flight altitudes, hypersonic weapons present a challenge to conventional missile and air defence systems.
The BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles that India’s armed forces already possess travel at Mach 2.8 thanks to conventional ramjet propulsion. Their current strike range is 450 km, up from the original 290 km. Ramjet engines, however, perform effectively at supersonic speeds of about Mach 3, but their efficiency declines at hypersonic speeds.