Part of: Prelims and GS III – Defence and security
Context: The Russian Ministry of Defence announced that it had used a hypersonic missile for the first time in the ongoing conflict with Ukraine.
What is a hypersonic missile?
- A hypersonic missile is a weapon system which flies at least at the speed of Mach 5 i.e. five times the speed of sound and is manoeuvrable.
- The manoeuvrability of the hypersonic missile is what sets it apart from a ballistic missile as the latter follows a set course or a ballistic trajectory.
- Thus, unlike ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles do not follow a ballistic trajectory and can be manoeuvred to the intended target.
- The two types of hypersonic weapons systems are Hypersonic Glide Vehicles (HGV) and Hypersonic Cruise Missiles.
- The HGV are launched from a rocket before gliding to the intended target while the hypersonic cruise missile is powered by air breathing high speed engines or ‘scramjets’ after acquiring their target.
- The US, Russia and China are in advanced stages of hypersonic missile programmes,
- India, France, Germany, Japan and Australia too are developing hypersonic weapons.