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‘Successful test-firing of Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV)’

  • Category
    Defence
  • Published
    15th Sep, 2020

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully test-fired the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV), making India the fourth country in the world after the US, China and Russia to develop such technology.

Context

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully test-fired the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV), making India the fourth country in the world after the US, China and Russia to develop such technology.

About

What is HSTDV? 

  • The HSTDV is an unmanned scramjet demonstration aircraft for hypersonic speed flight.
  • Hypersonic flight means a speed greater than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5).
  • 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.
  • The HSTDV used the indigenously developed scramjet propulsion system, which is an improvement over the Ramjet engines which work efficiently at supersonic speeds of around Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound).

What are Hypersonic nuclear missiles?

  • 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.

Which countries are in the ‘race’ of pursuing hypersonic missile?

  • In March this year, the United States announcedit had successfully tested an unarmed prototype of a hypersonic missile.
  • China and Russia are also vigorously pursuing hypersonic weapons, though Russia is reportedly not developing or considering them for use with a nuclear warhead.
  • In July, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country’s Navy vessels would be armed with hypersonic nuclear strike weapons and underwater nuclear drones, which, he said, are in the final phase of testing.

Different types of missiles

Cruise and ballistic missiles

  • Cruise missiles: A cruise missile either locates its target or has a preset target.
    • It navigates using a guidance system — such as inertial or beyond visual range satellite GPS guidance — and comprises a payload and aircraft propulsion system.
    • Cruise missiles can be launched from land, sea or air for land attacks and anti-shipping purposes, and can travel at subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic speeds.
    • Since they stay relatively close to the surface of the earth, they cannot be detected easily by anti-missile systems, and are designed to carry large payloads with high precision.
  • Ballistic missiles: Ballistic missiles, meanwhile, are launched directly into the upper layers of the earth’s atmosphere.
    • They travel outside the atmosphere, where the warhead detaches from the missile and falls towards a predetermined target. 
    • They are rocket-propelled self-guided weapons systems which can carry conventional or nuclear munitions.
    • They can be launched from aircraft, ships and submarines, and land.

ICBMs

  • Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) are guided missiles which can deliver nuclear and other payloads.
  • ICBMs have a minimum range of 5,500 km, with maximum ranges varying from 7,000 to 16,000 km.
  • Only a handful of countries, including Russia, United States, China, France, India and North Korea, have ICBM capabilities.
    • In 2018, India successfully test-fired nuclear-capable ballistic missile Agni-V, with a strike range of 5,000 km.

Anti-satellite missiles

  • ASAT can incapacitate or destroy satellites for strategic military purposes.
  • Other anti-satellite weapons include ground-based jammers to disrupt the signal from navigation and communications satellites.
  • The United States, Russia, and China are among countries pursuing anti-satellite weapons.
    • India had successfully test fired an ASAT on 27 March last year, knocking off one of its own satellites 300 km in space.
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