Hypersonic missile

  • IASbaba
  • January 7, 2022
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Hypersonic missile

Part of: Prelims and GS-II -International Relations and GS-III Defence and security

Context North Korea has successfully tested a hypersonic missile, in the first major weapons test by the nuclear-armed nation this year.

  • This was the second reported test of hypersonic gliding missiles, as it pursues the sophisticated technology despite international sanctions and condemnation

What are hypersonic weapons?

  • They are manoeuvrable weapons that can fly at speeds in excess of Mach 5, five times the speed of sound. 
    • The speed of sound is Mach 1, and speeds upto Mach 5 are supersonic and speeds above Mach 5 are hypersonic. 
  • Ballistic missiles, though much faster, follow a fixed trajectory and travel outside the atmosphere to re-enter only near impact. 
  • On the contrary, hypersonic weapons travel within the atmosphere and can manoeuvre midway which combined with their high speeds makes their detection and interception extremely difficult. This makes them very powerful.
  • This means that radars and air defences cannot detect them till they are very close and have little time to react.
  • There are two classes of hypersonic weapons: hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV) and hypersonic cruise missiles (HCM).
  • HGVs are launched from a rocket before gliding to a target while HCMs are powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines, or scramjets, after acquiring their target.

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