India successfully tests hypersonic vehicle, joins select club of US, Russia and China - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Stuff.

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Monday, 7 September 2020

India successfully tests hypersonic vehicle, joins select club of US, Russia and China




By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 8th Sept 20

 

Any contemporary list of cutting-edge military technologies has hypersonic, air-breathing, scramjet vehicles close to the very top. Only three countries – Russia, USA and China – have flown a vehicle in the atmosphere at hypersonic speed: six times the speed of sound (Mach 6), or two kilometres (km) per second.

 

On Monday, India entered that elite club when the Defence R&D Organisation’s (DRDO’s) experimental Hypersonic Technology Demonstration Vehicle (HSTDV) took off from the APJ Abdul Kalam Launch Complex, off the Odisha coast and, after separating from its launch vehicle at an altitude of 30 kilometres, flew at Mach 6 for more than 22 seconds. 

 

“The scramjet engine developed by our scientists helped the flight achieve a speed 6 times the speed of sound! Very few countries have such capability today,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

 

Enormous military advantages are available from hypersonic flight. Most cruise missiles fly today at sub-sonic speeds of 250-300 metres per second. This renders them vulnerable to interception by the enemy’s supersonic fighter jets before they strike their targets. However, a hypersonic cruise missile, flying faster than any fighter, would strike its target well before it can be intercepted. And the kinetic impact of a Mach 6 strike would utterly demolish the target.

 

Similarly, hypersonic transport aircraft would allow the army to move troops far more quickly to reinforce positions when a threat is detected. If reinforcements were required in Ladakh, troops from Thiruvananthapuram would require just 25 minutes of flying time to reach Leh.

 

The DRDO has taken almost 20 years to develop and test-fly the HSTDV at its flagship missile laboratory – the Defence R&D Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad. Spearheading this effort was Dr Prahlada Ramarao, who headed DRDL till 2005 and then remained associated with the project from DRDO Headquarters in Delhi.

 

Prahlada explains that hypersonic flight presents two primary technological challenges. First, the air being rammed into the engine at high supersonic speeds makes it difficult to simultaneously inject fuel and burn the mixture without the flame being extinguished by the air blast. 


 


“It is like lighting a candle in a hurricane and keeping the flame alight. That is why a hypersonic vehicle’s engine is called a ‘supersonic combustion ramjet’, or scramjet engine,” he says.

 

The second technological challenge is to cool the HSTDV’s skin, which gets red hot due to the friction created by travelling at Mach 6. “We chose materials for the skin that can withstand very high temperatures, and circulate fluid under the skin to carry away the heat,” says Prahlada.

 

Once ready, the HSTDV performed flawlessly in the Monday test. According to the DRDO, the HSTDV piggybacked on a solid rocket motor to an altitude of 30 km, where it separated from the launch vehicle. There, the air intake opened, hypersonic combustion was initiated and sustained, and the cruise vehicle continued on its programmed flight path at Mach 6 for more than 20 seconds. 

 

“The parameters of launch and cruise vehicle, including the Scramjet engine were monitored by multiple tracking radars, electro-optical systems and telemetry stations… A ship was also deployed in the Bay of Bengal to monitor the performance during the cruise phase of hypersonic vehicle. All the performance parameters have indicated a resounding success of the mission,” stated a DRDO release.

 

Amongst the critical technologies validated in the test were the “aerodynamic configuration for hypersonic manoeuvres, use of scramjet propulsion for ignition and sustained combustion at hypersonic flow… [and] and high temperature materials,” said the DRDO.

 

Signalling a role for private defence firms to manufacture hypersonic vehicles, the DRDO said this “highly complex technology will serve as the building block for NextGen hypersonic vehicles in partnership with industry.”

 

“With this success, all critical technologies are now established to progress to the next phase,” tweeted Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. 




7 comments:

  1. It is really mind-boggling that India would rather spend tonnes of money and resources develop hyper-sonic weapons (which is useless in any war with its neighbors, including China or Pakistan) over much needed conventional weapons that are needed now by the India military. On top of that I doubt that the final product (hyper-sonic) would ever be working well, much like all its other domestically built weapons. Can anyone think one prominent weapon that is domestically built and is now proudly being used by India military? I can’t, but I can think of many substandard weapons that are manufactured domestically and have been rejected by India military.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So what do you suggest India should stop trying ....not all weapons created by India were unsuccessful our missile technology is a sucess which helped in our space program....with a big enemy as China on our neighbour cus China can never be a friend of India it will never help a country who has a potential to someday rival itself and Pakistan,there can be no friendship with it there is just too much hate and very little interaction......with all these external pressure what do you think India as know today with it's diversity can hold together....

      Delete
  2. "Most cruise missiles fly today at sub-sonic speeds of 250-300 metres per second" - WRONG!
    The velocity is around 3 Mach for missiles operating in the Ku band.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Brilliant News. Well Done DRDL

    ReplyDelete
  4. Funniest part: transportation of troops in hypersonic planes.

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  5. Why would hypersonic transport be used to ferry troops from Southern India to North India. Fanciful dreams. It’s taken 20 years for a hypersonic missile to be developed - a hypersonic transport is a pipe dream.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "Similarly, hypersonic transport aircraft would allow the army to move troops far more quickly to reinforce positions when a threat is detected. If reinforcements were required in Ladakh, troops from Thiruvananthapuram would require just 25 minutes of flying time to reach Leh."

    shuklababu - it is all in the mind; like schrodinger's cat. until the aircraft door is opened, the soldiers are both alive and ....

    ReplyDelete

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