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13 June HYPERSONIC CRUISE MISSILE

. India has successfully conducted the maiden flight test of its indigenously developed fired Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) off Odisha Coast. This test is critical as it forms an important part of India’s ambitious programme for development of a hypersonic cruise missile system.

. Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) carried out the trials from Dr Abdul Kalam Island in the Bay of Bengal.
The new technology was tested and the data generated by radars showed that the trial was a success.

HSTDV

. It is developed by DRDO.
. HSTDV is an unmanned scramjet demonstration vehicle that can cruise up to a speed of mach 6 (or six times the speed of sound) and rise up to an altitude of 32 km in 20 seconds.
. It has a range of uses, including missiles of the future, and energy-efficient, low cost and reusable satellite-launch vehicle.
. This cruise vehicle will be mounted on a solid rocket motor to take it to the required altitude. After the required altitude is reached and the Mach is achieved, the cruise vehicle will be ejected out of the launch vehicle.

Mid-air the Scramjet engine will be auto-ignited, and will propel the cruise vehicle at Mach 6.
. This is a dual-use technology Project, with civilian applications.
. While it can be used to launch small satellites at a much lower cost, it will be used for launching long-range cruise missiles.
. Developed by DRDO, with help from Israel and the UK and Russia which has done major research in hypersonic propulsion has also played a critical role in this project.
. The need to develop these hypersonic engines is important as it will propel launch vehicles at a velocity that cannot be achieved from traditional turbine-powered jet engines.
. The Scramjet integrated vehicle using hydrocarbon fuel has been tested for its performance, and aerodynamics.
. There are plans to conduct a longer duration flight by the DRDO which is expected to which could ultimately lead to the development of re-usable nuclear/conventional weapons delivery platforms.
Guarded by Anti-ballistic air defence systems, these platforms are likely to perform precision strikes.
. Hypersonic flight is the new stealth as it can evade and outrun the enemy fire.

SIGNIFICANCE OF HSTDV

• The significance of the HSTDV is enormous on both security and technological grounds. Security-wise, a hypersonic cruise missile can be key in taking out hostile airborne attacks, giving the Air Force an edge in terms of launching offenses of their own. It is also a technological feat that can be incorporated into other areas such as sweeping surveillance tasks, all the while being energy efficient in operation.

• The HSTDV uses a solid rocket launch booster for initial propulsion, following which combustion takes place in the anterior scramjet engine. The engine takes in an inflow of air particles, and compresses them inside a combustion chamber without slowing them down, thereby producing thrust that is further helped along by the side fins that aerodynamically amplify the thrust. It is this mechanism that is deemed imperative in giving the cruise missile hypersonic speeds. The double-wall engine is built using a Niobium alloy, which has a high thermal latency, and can therefore withstand the high combustion temperature and pressures inside the engine chamber.

• A hypersonic missile is a “quick reaction missile” which makes it invaluable in offensive as well as defensive uses. In case of defence, it can be used to intercept incoming missiles in the outer atmosphere or in the inner atmosphere. It will help add to India’s ballistic missile defence capabilities.

• This will be a new straw in the hat for India and its quest for equipping its offensive and defensive arsenal with ballistic cruise missiles. A weapon to the tune of the HSTDV can be lethal even in non-warfare cases, and the technology itself can be path-breaking.

• If the combustion model is harnessed, it may, in fact, lead up to commercial usage designs, which in turn can aid areas such as reusable spaceflight and more efficient commercial cargo transmission. The first test has been claimed to have been a success by DRDO officials, as per radar data, marking a successful start to the quest for hypersonic engineering that began nearly two decades ago.

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