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.