New Delhi: India has joined the elite club of countries having the ability to develop hypersonic missiles which can travel several times faster than the speed of sound. So far, only US, Russia and China had this ability.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully demonstrated the hypersonic air-breathing scramjet technology with the flight test of Hypersonic Technology Demonstration Vehicle (HSTDV) recently from the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Launch Complex at Wheeler Island, off the coast of Odisha. With this, the country has entered into the hypersonic regime paving way for advanced hypersonic vehicles.

The hypersonic cruise vehicle was launched using a proven solid rocket motor, which took it to an altitude of 30 km, where the aerodynamic heat shields were separated at hypersonic Mach number. The cruise vehicle separated from the launch vehicle and the air intake opened as planned.

The hypersonic combustion sustained and the cruise vehicle continued on its desired flight path at a velocity of six times the speed of sound, which means nearly 2 km/second for more than 20 seconds. The critical events like fuel injection and auto ignition of scramjet demonstrated technological maturity. The scramjet engine performed in a text book manner.

According to a senior official, the technology in such vehicles having velocity more than five times the speed of sound is quite different in terms of heating and aerodynamics, which make them unique. The parameters of launch and cruise vehicle, including scramjet engine, was monitored by multiple tracking radars, electro-optical systems and Telemetry Stations. The scramjet engine worked at high dynamic pressure and at very high temperature.

A ship was also deployed in the Bay of Bengal to monitor the performance during the cruise phase of the hypersonic vehicle. All the performance parameters indicated a resounding success of the mission. With this successful demonstration, many critical technologies such as aerodynamic configuration for hypersonic manoeuvres, use of scramjet propulsion for ignition and sustained combustion at hypersonic flow, thermo-structural characterisation of high temperature materials, separation mechanism at hypersonic velocities etc. were proven.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the DRDO for the successful flight of the HSTDV. In a tweet, the Prime Minister said, “Congratulations to DRDO for the successful flight of the Hypersonic Test Demonstration Vehicle today. The scramjet engine developed by our scientists helped the flight achieve a speed 6 times the speed of sound! Very few countries have such capability today.”