- Ukraine claims it shot down Russia’s next generation hypersonic missile ‘Barrage’.
- A hypersonic missile is a weapon system which flies at least at the speed of Mach 5 i.e., five times the speed of sound and is maneuverable.
- The maneuverability of the hypersonic missile is what sets it apart from a ballistic missile as the latter follows a set course or a ballistic trajectory.
- Unlike ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles do not follow a ballistic trajectory and can be maneuvered to the intended target.
- The two types of hypersonic weapons systems are Hypersonic Glide Vehicles (HGV) and Hypersonic Cruise Missiles.
- The HGV are launched from a rocket before gliding to the intended target while the hypersonic cruise missile is powered by air breathing high speed engines or ‘scramjets.
- hypersonic weapons can enable responsive, long range strike options against distant, defended or time critical threats
- Conventional hypersonic weapons use only kinetic energy i.e., energy derived from motion, to destroy unhardened targets.
- Hypersonic weapons are often difficult to detect due to their speed, maneuverability and low altitude of flight.
Which countries possess hypersonic weapons?
- While the US, Russia and China are in advanced stages of hypersonic missile programmes, India, France, Germany, Japan and Australia too are developing hypersonic weapons.
- Russia announced its hypersonic missile ‘Kinzhal’ or Dagger in 2018 used it for the first time in battle conditions in Ukraine.
- China too is reportedly in possession of this weapon system and has twice used it to circumnavigate the globe before landing near a target in August 2021.
- In the US, the hypersonic weapons are being developed under its Navy’s conventional Prompt Strike Programme as well as through Army, Air Force and Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
India’s Hypersonic Missile Programme:
- India is developing an indigenous, dual capable (conventional as well as nuclear) hypersonic cruise missile as part of its Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle Programme.
- In 2020, the DRDO successfully demonstrated the hypersonic air-breathing scramjet technology with the flight test of HSTDV.
- India operates approximately 12 hypersonic wind tunnels and is capable of testing speeds upto Mach 13.
- In January 2023, India carried out a test of indigenously designed Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSDTV) off the Odisha coast.
- The Indian hypersonic vehicle will take another three to four years to become fully operational.
SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB