INDIA’S HYPERSONIC TEST
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India successfully tested an indigenously developed Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) - a missile-capable vehicle on Monday in the earlier week that can move at 6 times the speed of sound making India the fourth country in the world after the US, China and Russia to develop such a world technology. It plans to develop such a missile in 5 yrs. which will serve as a critical building block for next-generation hypersonic cruise missiles. The test was led by the DRDO Chief Dr.Sathish Reddy. The test was carried out from Abdul Kalam Island (formerly Wheeler Island) off the coast of Odisha at 11:03 AM. This test came a year after the DRDO had first tested the futuristic technology but it had not met all the parameters then.
WHAT IS THE HSTDV?
The HSTDV is an unmanned scramjet demonstration aircraft for hypersonic speed flight. A Hypersonic flight is essentially an aircraft with a speed greater than five times the speed of sound. Apart from being used as a vehicle for hypersonic and long-range cruise missiles, the HSTDV is a dual-use technology that will have multiple civilian applications, including the launch of small satellites at low cost.
Hypersonic missiles travel at speeds faster than 3,800 miles per hour or 6,115 km per hour, much faster than other ballistic and cruise missiles. They can deliver conventional or nuclear payloads within minutes. They are highly manoeuvrable and do not follow a predictable arc as they travel. They are said to combine the speed of ballistic missiles with the manoeuvring capabilities of cruise missiles. The speed makes them hard to track compared to traditional missile tech.
A press statement from the Ministry of Defence said, “The hypersonic cruise vehicle was launched using a proven solid rocket motor, which took it to an altitude of 30 kilometres, where the aerodynamic heat shields were separated. The cruise vehicle separated from the launch vehicle and the air intake opened as planned. The hypersonic combustion sustained and the cruise vehicle continued on its desired flight path at a velocity of six times the speed of sound, which is nearly two kilometres per second, for more than 20 seconds. The critical events, like fuel injection and auto ignition of scramjet demonstrated technological maturity. The scramjet engine performed in a text book manner.” At hypersonic speeds, the system has to handle very high fluctuating temperatures, as well as air speed, and thus, development of the material is one of the main challenges, among other complex technologies. DRDO scientists said the test conducted on Monday was a major milestone, as well as a stepping stone for the development of hypersonic systems in both the defence as well as the civilian sector. These include both offensive and defensive hypersonic cruise missile systems, and applications in the space sector. Monday’s test also comes at a time when ties between India and China are frayed due to intrusions by Chinese troops into Indian territory.
Reporter: Agni Tejas