India’s vision is to enter the hypersonic missile era with a number of ongoing projects.
Anything that goes beyond Mach 5 speed is termed hypersonic. A projectile at such speed is difficult to target and track due to its speed, manoeuvrability, and low altitude of flight.
Hypersonic weapons are primarily of 3 types.
- Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV): is a type of warhead for ballistic missiles that can manoeuvre and glide at hypersonic speed.
E.g. DRDO HSTDV mounted on the solid booster of a ballistic missile.
- Hypersonic Cruise Missile (HCM): missile uses an air-breathing scramjet engine, which is much more advanced than ramjet engines that can handle supersonic airflow to achieve hypersonic speed.
E.g. Scramjet engine development by ISRO
- The terminal phase of ballistic missile: speeds up to Mach 25 or beyond can be achieved when the missile enters the third phase and final stage of re-entering the earth’s atmosphere.
For E.g. DRDO Agni 5 ICBM in the terminal stage can go beyond Mach 24 as reported
India operates approximately 12 hypersonic wind tunnels and is capable of testing speeds up to Mach 13.