They can travel up to ten times faster than the speed of sound. Delivers conventional warheads faster and more accurately than other missiles. And can easily overcome air defense systems. These are hypersonic missiles, the use of which Russia has admitted for the first time.
Moscow said it used its latest Kinzhal hypersonic missiles on Saturday to destroy an underground missile and ammunition depot in western Ukraine near the border with NATO member Romania. Analysts said this was the first use of such weapons in the world.
Russia has never admitted to using the high-precision weapon in combat, and the state news agency RIA Novosti reported that Kinzhal (Dagger)’s hypersonic weapon was used for the first time during the conflict in pro-western Ukraine. The Russian Ministry of Defense announced on Saturday, the 24th day of the conflict, that Ukrainians are resisting fiercely and the advance of Russian troops has stalled.
News18 takes a dive into what hypersonic missiles actually are and what experts say about this development.
Can travel 5 times or faster than the speed of sound: Hypersonic missiles traveling at Mach 5 or faster (five times the speed of sound) fly into space after launch, but then return to Earth on a flight path similar to that of an airplane.
Hard to detect: Due to their low trajectory, high speed and maneuverability, hypersonic missiles are difficult to detect by US missile defense satellites and radars, according to a report from CNN.
Ability to supply nuclear weapons a ‘threat’: However, their ability to supply nuclear weapons can increase a country’s threat, increasing the risk of a nuclear conflict. “This is the first case in the world of the use of hypersonic weapons in combat,” military analyst Vasily Kashin said. AFP.
Russia leads the race, followed by China, USA: Russia is leading the race in hypersonic, followed by China and the United States, with several other countries developing the technology.
Effective for destroying underground storage spaces, maneuverable: Kashin, head of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, said that compared to cruise missiles, hypersonic weapons were more effective at destroying underground storage sites. “A hypersonic missile can have higher penetration and destructive power because of its very high speed,” he said. Like the much slower, often subsonic cruise missile, a hypersonic missile is manoeuvrable, making it harder to track and defend against.
Subsonic missiles travel at a speed slower than the speed of sound. Most well-known missiles, such as the American Tomahawk cruise missile, the French Exocet and the Indian Nirbhay, fall into this category. Subsonic missiles travel at around Mach-0.9 (705 mph). Subsonic missiles are slower and easier to intercept, but they still play a significant role on modern battlefields. Not only are they significantly cheaper to produce because the technological challenges have already been overcome and mastered, but due to their low speed and small size, subsonic missiles provide an extra layer of strategic value, according to a report by PartyYard Military Company.
A supersonic missile is one that moves faster than the speed of sound (Mach 1), but not faster than Mach-3. Most supersonic missiles travel at speeds from Mach-2 to Mach-3 or up to 2,300 mph. The Indian / Russian BrahMos, currently the fastest operational supersonic missile capable of speeds of around 2,100-2,300 mph, is the best known supersonic missile.
A hypersonic missile is five times faster than the speed of sound and exceeds Mach-5 (3,800 mph). There is currently no operational defense system that can prevent the use of these strategic weapons. As a result, many global powers, including the United States, Russia, India, and China, are developing hypersonic missiles. However, there are several technological challenges to overcome, especially in terms of maintaining combustion inside the missile system, while withstanding the extreme temperatures of hypersonic speeds.
Hypersonic missiles are classified into two types: hypersonic cruise missiles and hypersonic gliders, report by PartyYard Military company says.
Hypersonic cruise missile: A hypersonic cruise missile achieves its goal by using a high-speed jet engine that allows it to travel at speeds above Mach-5. It is non-ballistic as opposed to traditional intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) which use gravitational forces to reach their targets.
Hypersonic Glide Vehicle: In a hypersonic glider, re-entry vehicles are used, details of the report. Initially, the missile is sent into space on an arc trajectory, where the warheads are released and fall at hypersonic speeds toward the atmosphere. Instead of leaving the payload on the grace of gravity, as is the case with traditional ICBMs, the warheads are attached to a sliding vehicle that re-enters the atmosphere and thanks to its aerodynamic shape can ride on the shock waves generated by its own . lift as it exceeds the speed of sound, providing sufficient speed to overcome existing missile defense systems. The glider surfs through the atmosphere at altitudes from 40 to 100 kilometers and utilizes aerodynamic forces to reach its destination.
India has been working on hypersonic missile technology for a few years and is currently lagging behind the US, Russia and China. In September 2020, DRDO successfully tested a Hypersonic Technology Demonstrated Vehicle (HSTDV) and demonstrated its hypersonic air-breathing scramjet technology.
According to reports, India has developed its own cryogenic engine and tested it in a 23-second flight. Using HSTDV, India will seek to develop a hypersonic cruise missile.
Defense Minister Rajnath Singh has also previously urged scientists to work towards the development of hypersonic missile technology.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the Kinzhal air-fired missile as “an ideal weapon” that flies at 10 times the speed of sound and can overcome air defense systems. Kinzhal means dagger.
The Kinzhal missile was one of a series of new weapons that Putin unveiled in his speech in the state in 2018.
The missile has a range of about 1,500-2,000 km and can carry a nuclear or conventional payload weighing 480 kg. Kinzhal has a length of 8 meters, a body diameter of 1 meter and a firing weight of about 4,300 kg.
Despite the fact that hype and secrecy are blurring the picture, Russia, China and the American nations seem to have made significant progress in overcoming important obstacles, such as protecting hypersonic vessels from violent frictional heating, a report by Richard Stone and Science explains.
China has shown its own rocket-powered hypersonic glider (HGV), Dongfeng-17 in the past, and the United States is testing a range of hypersonic weapons. “It’s a bit like a race to the moon. National pride is at stake,” Iain Boyd, a space engineer at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said in the report.
By February of this year, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had hosted more than a dozen hypersonic industry leaders as part of the Pentagon’s commitment to accelerating the development of hypersonic weapon systems, which the department considers a technological priority as it competes with China and Russia. .
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had on a trip to Poland met with leaders of the hypersonic arms industry on February 3 in the Pentagon to emphasize the United States’ commitment to accelerating the development of hypersonic weapons.
According to Politico, the meeting plans came together after the military services submitted budget proposals for the financial year 2023, which Austin considered insufficient to accelerate the development and deployment of hypersonic weapon systems, which China and Russia have already begun, the arms control association reported.
The report quotes Larry Wortzel, a senior fellow at the U.S. Foreign Policy Council who serves on the U.S. Economic and Security Review Commission, as saying that the Chinese military considers hypersonic weapons (as well as cyber warfare and electromagnetic pulse attacks) to be a “killer killer.” “: a folkloric term for a weapon that gives an advantage to a better armed enemy.
If tensions rise over Taiwan or the South China Sea, for example, China could be tempted to launch preemptive strikes with conventional hypersonic weapons, paralyzing U.S. forces in the Pacific, according to Wortzel. He warns that China’s hypersonic weapons “are apparently deliberately aimed at raising the flimsy strategic stability that has been in place since the end of the Cold War.”