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SOURCE: RAJESH AHUJA / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG

IMAGE COURTESY KUNTAL BISWAS

The major highlight of the recent test of the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) by DRDO was the showcase of the indigenous scramjet engine that has gained maturity and will now be moving to the second phase of the testing in 2021 when the scramjet engine will be tested for a longer duration. According to media reports, the locally developed scramjet engine demonstrated over 20 seconds in flight sustained hypersonic combustion where it achieved over 2km per second speed, where it roughly covered nearly 40km in Mach 6 speed.

2021 will see a repeat of the HSTDV being tested for a longer duration of 60-180 seconds with sustained hypersonic combustion in Mach 6 speed regime but for it to move to a Hypersonic Cruise Missile (HCM) Prototype stage then the upcoming missile will require a scramjet engine which can sustain hypersonic combustion in Mach 6 speed regime for about 3-4 minutes for 500km range but ultimately aim for the DRDO could be to achieve 1000km range when the program officially starts.

HSTDV used an Agni-I solid rocket motor to take it to the required altitude before it separated the cruise vehicle from the launch vehicle. Hypersonic Cruise Missile since will be used from Multiple Platforms and even from frontline warships. DRDO will need to plan a new smaller but powerful solid-fuel booster motor in the first stage rather than using the conventional Agni-I solid rocket motor which won’t be practical for Frontline Warships.

DRDO also has plans to develop a Brahmos missile with an upgraded Ramjet engine to develop near Hypersonic flight regime as an interim alternative till the HCM Prototype is developed and goes into production by 2030. BrahMos missile which already has a speed of Mach 2.9 will be further bumped up for a Mach 4 or Mach 4.5 speed in future upgrade variants. DRDO already has Transfer of Technology for the Russian Ramjet engine which is currently manufactured in India but due to Russian IP rights, upgradation of the engine will require Russian Techincal consultancy for DRDO to carryout necessary modification for the current Ramjet engine to achieve over Mach 4 speed but since it won’t be achieving over Mach 5 speed it won’t be Technically called as a Hypersonic Cruise Missile but such bump in speed will only make it, even more, deadlier to intercept by the Air Defence units.

DRDO also has plans to develop BrahMos-2 with Russia using 3M22 Zircon/SS-N-33 as a base for a new Anti-Ship Hypersonic Cruise Missile but presently focus is to bump the speed of the existing BrahMos missiles and develop a lighter and shorter BrahMos-NG for the Indian Air force which can be equipped on all Fighter jets. DRDO expects delays in developing BrahMos-2 with Russia since the scramjet motor to be used in the second stage of the BrahMos-2 will be based on Russian Scramjet technology and it might take time to get Russians fully onboard even though Russia and India have agreed to share the technology for the BrahMos-2 program when it is ready to hit production but it is also important for India and DRDO to have an indigenous Hypersonic Cruise Missile (HCM) separate of the BrahMos-2 program and it seems plan of having an indigenous HCM is already on the roll but it might be superior to the what will come out of the BrahMos-2 since DRDO wants to go beyond what Russians could offer for the next Joint Venture.

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