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DRDO to test HSTDV in 2022 once again

Source : The Times of India

DRDO to test HSTDV in 2022 once again
DRDO built Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator (HSTDV) vehicle (Left) and the HSTDV test last year (Right)

With China, Russia and the US actively building aerodynamically manoeuverable hypersonic weapons that fly over five times the speed of sound (Mach 5), defence minister Rajnath Singh has directed DRDO to move fast towards developing such arsenal to ‘maintain’ India’s minimum credible deterrence against adversaries.

Towards this end, India is planning to conduct another test of its hypersonic technology demonstrator vehicle (HSTDV), powered by a scramjet engine, by early next year, said sources. The HSTDV, which was successfully tested for the first time in September last year, will serve as a crucial building block in the development of long-range hypersonic weapons, which will take at least another four to five years to become a reality. A hypersonic weapon can either be a glide vehicle’ launched from a rocket or a scramjet-poweredcruise missile’.

Speaking at a DRDO event on Tuesday, the defence minister said ballistic missile defence systems are getting more and more robust with the passage of time. “In order to maintain a minimum credible deterrence, we have to immediately think about hypersonic cruise missile development. It will be a revolutionary step in our defence sector and we all have to put our efforts into it,” he said.

Singh formally handed over an indigenous anti-drone system, smart anti-airfield weapon (SAAW), modular bridge and advanced chaff variants to the armed forces at the event. But his remarks on hypersonic weapons were significant, though he did not elaborate. They came in the backdrop of China’s test of a nuclear-capable missile carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle and warhead on July 27 this year, which stunned military experts around the world. China has stolen the march over the US, which has not yet developed hypersonic weapons with nuclear warheads.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, on his part, claims his country is the global leader in developing hypersonic missiles. Deliveries of the latest Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles to the Russian Navy will begin in 2022, he recently said.India, of course, is nowhere close to developing hypersonic weapons that can defeat an enemy’s missile defence shields with the combination of high speed and manoeuverability.

Last year’s test involved the `cruise vehicle’ or HSTDV being carried by the ‘launch vehicle’ powered by the solid rocket motor of an Agni-I ballistic missile to a 30-km altitude. The cruise vehicle then separated and auto-ignited its scramjet engine to fly on its own for 23 seconds at Mach 6 speed. The HSTDV tests in the coming years will require longer duration hypersonic flights to eventually pave the way for development of hypersonic weapons.

The Indian Armed Forces already have the conventional ramjet-powered BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, which fly at Mach 2.8 speed, developed jointly with Russia. Their strike range is being enhanced from the original 290-km to well over 400-km now. But while ramjet engines operate well at supersonic speeds around Mach 3, their efficiency drops at hypersonic speeds.

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