Nuclear-Capable Hypersonic Missile tested by China.

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News: According to a few reports, China had tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August 2021 but had kept it a secret. Read the news here.

Let’s Understand in Simple Language:

According to a report by the Financial Times, China had tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August 2021 demonstrating an advanced space capability that surprised even the US intelligence. As per the same report, this Chinese missile circled the globe before cruising towards its target, though it missed the target by 24 miles. The missile is believed to have flown in a low-orbit space before cruising down towards its target.

The report said China generally announces the launch of its Long March rockets — the type used to launch the hypersonic glide vehicle into orbit — but it concealed this particular launch. It is also believed that the missile might have the capability of flying over the South Pole which may pose a threat to the US military because its missile defense systems are focused on the northern polar route.

Several countries, including the US, Russia, and China, are developing hypersonic missiles which travel at a speed five times that of sound. Though slower than ballistic missiles, they are harder to intercept and can be maneuvered (move skilfully or carefully).

What are Hypersonic Missiles?

A hypersonic missile is a vehicle that achieves a speed five times faster than the speed of sound, crossing Mach 5. Hypersonic cruise missiles are maneuverable and fly at lower altitudes, making them more difficult to detect, whereas ballistic missiles fly on more predictable trajectories.

Hypersonic weapons can take missile warfare, particularly nuclear warfare to the next level. They can travel much faster than current nuclear-capable ballistic and cruise missiles at low altitudes (making them harder to detect), can switch direction in flight (i.e has maneuverability), and do not follow a predictable arc like conventional missiles, making them much harder to track and intercept.

Does India have a hypersonic missile?

As of October 2021, India does not have a hypersonic missile. However, this does not mean that India is not working towards building one. India first launched its hypersonic vehicle in June 2019, but the test failed. India is involved in developing a hypersonic cruise missile in cooperation with Russia. This system is known as Brahmos II and is based on the supersonic cruise missile.

On September 7, 2020, India tested an indigenously built hypersonic weapon that will serve as the basis for a nuclear-capable cruise missile. This system is designed and built completely in India. Moreover, the DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) test-fired the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) which is expected to lay the foundation for the development of a hypersonic cruise missile system.


Hypersonic Missiles:

As mentioned above, hypersonic missiles are missiles that exceed the speed of Mach 5 (3,800 mph) and are almost five times faster than the speed of sound. Currently, very few countries like the US, China, Russia, and India are developing such missile systems. However, there are a lot of technical hurdles to be overcome to achieve this feat.

Supersonic Missiles:

A supersonic missile travels at a speed slower than a hypersonic missile. A supersonic missile exceeds the speed of sound (Mach 1) but is not faster than Mach-3. However, the hypersonic achieves the speed of Mach 5. the supersonic Missile achieves the speed of around 2300 mph. The most well-known supersonic missile is the Indian/Russian BrahMos, which is currently the fastest operational supersonic missile capable of speeds around 2,100–2,300 mph.

Subsonic Missiles:

Subsonic missiles travel slower than the speed of sound, around Mach-0.9 (705 mph). India’s Nirbhay missile is a subsonic missile. Subsonic missiles are slow and are therefore relatively far more fuel-efficient, and easier to intercept, but they still play a huge role in modern battlefields. For most, countries, it is currently quite easy to develop a subsonic missile as most of the technological challenges in developing a subsonic missile have been mastered or are technologically quite less challenging than a supersonic/hypersonic missile. Their slower speed allows them to fly closer to the surface of the earth and gives them more time to maneuver around obstacles that are common at such low altitudes.

What are the different types of missiles?

Surface-to-surface missiles:

A surface-to-surface missile or ground-to-ground missile is a missile designed to be launched from the ground or the sea and strike targets on land or at sea. They may be fired from hand-held or vehicle-mounted devices, from fixed installations, or from a ship. The Prithvi series, Agni series, Nirbhay, Brahmos, Shaurya, Dhanush, and Prahar are India’s Surface-to-surface missiles.

The Brahmos Missile has 3 different variants:

  1. Surface to Surface missile.
  2. Ship variant – missile which can be launched from Warships
  3. Airborne variant – Brahmos can be launched from Fighter Aircrafts.

Air-to-surface missiles:

An air-to-surface missile (ASM) or air-to-ground missile (AGM) is a missile designed to be launched from military aircraft at targets on land or sea. There are also unpowered guided glide bombs not considered missiles. The BrahMos, the Nag Missiles, HELINA (HELIcopter launched NAg), and Amogha 1 are India’s air-to-surface missiles.

Surface to Air missiles:

A surface-to-air missile (SAM), also known as a ground-to-air missile (GTAM) or surface-to-air guided weapon (SAGW), is a missile designed to be launched from the ground to destroy aircraft or other missiles. It is one type of anti-aircraft system. The Akash, Akash Mk1S, Trishul, and the Barack Series are India’s surface-to-air missiles.

Air to Air missile:

An air-to-air missile (AAM) is a missile fired from an aircraft for the purpose of destroying another aircraft. AAMs are typically powered by one or more rocket motors, usually solid fueled but sometimes liquid-fueled. Ramjet engines, as used on the Meteor. The Astra, K-100, and the MICA are India’s air-to-air missiles.

Important facts for Prelims:

  1. The Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) was launched in 1983.
  2. This program was launched with an agenda to develop five missile systems in the country – Trishul, Akash, Nag, Prithvi, and Agni.
  3. Tessy Thomas who is an Indian scientist and Director General of Aeronautical Systems and the former Project Director for Agni-IV missile in Defence Research and Development Organisation(DRDO) is known as the ‘Missile Woman’ of India.
  4. Prithvi was the first Indian single staged liquid-fuelled surface-to-surface Missile.

Questions related to the topic:

Q. What is the name of the third-generation Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM), which was successfully tested in Pokhran?

[A] Nag
[B] Param
[C] Veer
[D] Arya

Ans – A

Q. The land-attack version of which missile was test-fired in the Andaman and Nicobar?

[A] BrahMos
[B] Prithvi- III
[C] Agni- III
[D] Dhanush

Ans – A

Q.BrahMos Aerospace is a joint venture company set up by Russia’s Mashinostroyeniya and which other company of India?


Ans – B

Q. What type of missile is “Akash-NG”, which was test-fired recently?

[A] Surface to Surface Missile
[B] Air to Air Missile
[C] Anti-Tank Missile
[D] Surface to Air Missile

Ans – D

Q. What is “Helina” which is seen in the news recently?

[A] New vaccine candidate
[B] Missile System
[C] Spacecraft
[D] Mars Rover

Ans – B

Q.“Shared Destiny-2021” Defence Exercise is scheduled to be held in which country?

[A] China
[B] Thailand
[C] Pakistan
[D] Mongolia

Ans – A

Q. Which of the following is correct about India’s Missile Technology?
1. Astra is an Anti-Tank Missile.
2. Nag is an Air-to-Air Missile.
Select the correct option/options given below:

A. only 1

B. Only 2

C. both

D. None

Answer: (D)

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