India on Wednesday conducted a successful first test flight of the indigenously developed Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) from a base off the Odisha coast. The only other countries that possess this technology are the US, Russia and China.
The HSTDV is an unmanned scramjet (allowing supersonic combustion) 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.
What gives a hypersonic missile its potency is the speed at which it travels, said Rajeshwari Rajagopalan, an expert on space and nuclear technology at the New Delhi- based Observer Research Foundation think tank. Countries like Russia and China have perfected this technology which makes it key for India to acquire it, she said. “This test today puts India in an elite club of nations definitely, but India will have to perfect the technology with many more tests,” said Rajagopalan.
India’s HSTDV was test-fired by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at 11.27 am, a statement from the defence ministry said. The aim of the mission was to “prove a number of critical technologies for futuristic missions”.
A hypersonic missile is a “quick reaction missile” which makes it invaluable in offensive as well as defensive uses, said W. Selvamurthy, a former DRDO scientist. 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, he said.
“I congratulate team @DRDO_India for positioning India amongst a select few countries with the successful test fire of Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) off Odisha’s coast. It can be used to launch satellites at low cost & will strengthen our defence capabilities,” petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan tweeted.
India has been developing a range of cruise missiles and ballistic missiles to meet its security challenges under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme. These include the Prithvi and Agni missiles as well as the anti-tank Nag and surface to air Akash. India in collaboration with Russia has developed the Brahmos cruise missile. In March, New Delhi, India successfully carried out an anti-satellite missile test that aims to protect its space assets.
The HSTDV cruise vehicle is mounted on a solid rocket motor, which will take it to a required altitude, and once it attains certain mach numbers for speed, the cruise vehicle will be ejected out of the launch vehicle, a PTI report said. The scramjet engine gets ignited automatically later. Besides its utility for long-range cruise missiles of the future, the dual-use technology will have multiple civilian applications too. For instance, it can be used for launching satellites, PTI quoting unnamed officials said.