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Hypersonic Technology

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    25th Oct, 2021

Context

Recently, it has been reported that China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle that circled the globe before speeding towards its target.

About

What is Hypersonic missile?

  • A hypersonic missile is a vehicle that achieves a speed five times faster than the speed of sound, crossing Mach 5.
  • These missiles travel at a speed of around 6,115 km per hour, with a combination of technology and manoeuvrability of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.
  • Technology Used: Most hypersonic vehicles primarily use scramjet technology, which is a type of Air Breathing propulsion System.
    • This is an extremely complex technology, which also needs to be able to handle high temperatures, making the hypersonic systems extremely costly.

Types of Hypersonic missile

There are two types of Hypersonic missiles:

  • Hypersonic cruise missiles: These are the ones that use rocket or jet propellant through their flight and are regarded as being just faster versions of existing cruise missiles.
  • Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV): These missiles first go up into the atmosphere on a conventional rocket before being launched towards their target.

Significance of Hypersonic missiles (over subsonic and supersonic weapons)

  • It will provide a nation with significantly enhanced strike capabilities.
  • It can overcome the defences of a heavily defended target such as that of an aircraft carrier.

Development of hypersonic missiles and implication for India

  • Several countries, including the US, Russia and China, are developing hypersonic missiles.
  • Hypersonic technology developments, in the backdrop of growing US-China rivalry and a year-long standoff with Indian forces in eastern Ladakh, is certainly a threat for India's space assets along with the surface assets.
    • The offence system operating at these speeds would mean a requirement to develop defence systems at these speeds.
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