The term ‘hypersonic’ refers to a speed five times that of sound. At sea level, the speed of sound is roughly 760 miles per hour. Hypersonic weaponry can move at least 3,800 miles per hour, according to this.
Ballistic missiles, on the other hand, travel at hypersonic speeds, particularly during the re-entry phase. So, what distinguishes modern hypersonic weapons from older missiles?
Hypersonic weapons, unlike ballistic missiles, do not follow a planned, arched trajectory, according to the US Congressional Research Service. They can also manoeuvre on their way to their destination.
In effect, you have a very fast, low-flying, and highly manoeuvrable missile that may be too swift and nimble for conventional missile defence systems to respond to. There are two types of modern hypersonic weapons. The cruise missiles and glide vehicles in question are cruise missiles and glide vehicles, respectively.
A ballistic missile is used to launch glide vehicles. They glide to their target at hypersonic rates once they have reached the requisite distance and speed. Scramjet engines could be used in hypersonic cruise missiles to allow them to travel at a constant altitude and at constant speeds.
Let us now turn our attention to the Russian missile that was recently deployed.
The Kinzhal is an air-launched ballistic missile, according to the US think tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies. It has nuclear weapons capability. It also travels at a speed of ten times that of sound. It is thought to be capable of defeating a wide range of existing air defence systems. The missile has a range of 1,500-2,000 kilometres.
It’s important to note that this weapon isn’t a glide vehicle or a cruise missile. As a result, putting it in the same category as the new-age, powerful hypersonic weapons being researched by the big countries could be inaccurate.
The most advanced hypersonic weapons programmes are in the hands of the United States, China, and Russia. Hypersonic weapons are also being developed by Australia, India, Germany, France, and Japan.
The BrahMos-II, a hypersonic cruise missile developed in conjunction with Russia, is on the verge of entering service in India.
India is developing an indigenous hypersonic cruise missile as part of its Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle programme. In fact, in June 2019 and September 2020, India successfully tested a Mach 6 scramjet.