The incredible development in aviation is ushering in the age of hypersonic flying. The moment has arrived for India to develop hypersonic systems and weapons for current and future technology. How is it progressing?
Hypersonic flight is defined as flying above Mach 5, which is five times the speed of sound. It is important because hypersonic missiles are difficult to intercept, as there is no credible anti-missile system available yet.
Hypersonic vehicles can also be difficult to detect and track with radar until they are very close to their intended target.
The development of hypersonic technology is already taking place in the aerospace clusters of advanced militaries, including the US, Russia, and China.
The development of hypersonic technology requires the development of hybrid engines capable of handling subsonic, supersonic, and hypersonic speeds.
The propulsion needs to be recalibrated greatly between the supersonic and hypersonic regimes, with air-breathing or ramjet designs becoming more popular for increased speeds.
The transition from turbojet mode to ramjet mode is complex, and there are ongoing efforts to develop seamless transition technology.
India's Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has been working on hypersonic missiles since 2018.
In 2020, the DRDO tested the hypersonic air-breathing scramjet system for propulsion, called the Hypersonic Technology Demonstration Vehicle (HSTDV), which attained a speed of Mach 6 for 23 seconds during testing.
India's BrahMos Aerospace Corporation has also shown interest in developing hypersonic missiles.
However, there are still communication and connectivity challenges at hypersonic speeds, and the DRDO must validate target acquisition capability, missile guidance, and control mechanisms.