Hypersonic technology

NOV 19

Preliminary   > Science and Technology   >   Defence technology   >   Basics of defence technology

Why in news?

  • Russia Successfully Test Fires Zircon Hypersonic Missile. This will give it the edge in any arms race with the United States at a time of growing tensions with the West.

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.
    • Mach Number: It describes an aircraft’s speed compared with the speed of sound in air, with Mach 1 equating to the speed of sound i.e. 343 metre per second.
  • Though slower than ballistic missiles, they are harder to intercept and can be manoeuvred.

Types of hypersonic missile:

  • 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.

Technology Used:

  • Most hypersonic vehicles primarily use the scramjet technology, which is a type of Air Breathing propulsion System.
    • These systems use atmospheric oxygen, which is available up to about 50 km of earth’s surface to burn the fuel stored on-board thereby making the system much lighter, more efficient and cost effective.
  • This is extremely complex technology, which also needs to be able to handle high temperatures, making the hypersonic systems extremely costly.

Significance of hypersonic missiles:

  • 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:

  • Several countries, including the US, Russia, China and India, are developing hypersonic missiles. China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August 2021.
  • In India, hypersonic technology has been developed and tested by both DRDO and ISRO.
  • Recently, DRDO has successfully flight-tested the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV), with a capability to travel at 6 times the speed of sound.
  • Also, a Hypersonic Wind Tunnel (HWT) test facility of the DRDO was inaugurated in Hyderabad. It is a pressure vacuum-driven, enclosed free jet facility that simulates Mach 5 to 12.


Consider the following statements:

1. Most hypersonic vehicles primarily use the scramjet technology

2. In India, hypersonic technology has been developed and tested by both DRDO and ISRO.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2