India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) conducted the first on-field test of its ambitious project to build a hypersonic unmanned scramjet cruise missile along with several other technologies.
On 12 June, the DRDO conducted the maiden test of an indigenously developed Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV). The launch marked the first real-world test of the hypersonic vehicle using a reusable solid booster first stage.
According to a statement, a hypersonic cruise missile could be key in taking out hostile airborne attacks, giving the country’s Air Force an edge in terms of launching offenses of their own. It is also a technological feat that can be incorporated into other areas such as sweeping surveillance tasks. It is energy efficient in operation.
Reports have said that the HSTDV uses a solid rocket launch booster for initial propulsion after which combustion takes place in the anterior scramjet engine. The engine takes in an inflow of air particles and compresses them inside a combustion chamber without slowing them down, thereby producing thrust that is further helped along by the side fins that aerodynamically amplify the thrust. This mechanism is crucial to attaining missile hypersonic speeds. The double-wall engine is built using a Niobium alloy, which has high thermal latency and can, therefore, withstand the high combustion temperature and pressures inside the engine chamber.
In the test, a missile with the technology demonstrator vehicle mounted on it was launched and the vehicle was released only after the missile reached a certain altitude and velocity.
The former DRDO chief said that under this project, the agency will develop a hypersonic vehicle that will be powered by a scramjet engine. The dual-use technology, when developed, will have multiple civilian applications. It can be used for launching satellites at low costs. It will also be available for long-range cruise missiles in the future.
The HSTDV is expected to have a flight duration of 20 seconds at an altitude of 31 km (Kilometres). There are plans to conduct a longer duration flight by the DRDO that is expected to lead to the development of re-usable nuclear and conventional weapons delivery platforms.
Guarded by anti-ballistic air defence systems, these platforms are likely to perform precision strikes.
The DRDO was formed in 1958 from the amalgamation of the then already functioning Technical Development Establishment (TDEs) of the Indian Army and the Directorate of Technical Development and Production (DTDP) with the Defence Science Organisation (DSO).
DRDO started out as a small organisation with ten laboratories. Over the years, it has grown multi-directionally in terms of the variety of subject disciplines, number of laboratories, achievements, and stature.
Currently, the DRDO is a network of more than 50 laboratories that are deeply engaged in developing defence technologies covering various disciplines. These include aeronautics, armaments, electronics, combat vehicles, engineering systems, instrumentation, missiles, advanced computing and simulation, special materials, naval systems, life sciences, training, information systems, and agricultural technologies.
The organisation is backed by over 5000 scientists and about 25,000 other scientific, technical and supporting personnel. Several major projects for the development of missiles, armaments, light combat aircrafts, radars, and electronic warfare systems are on hand.