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Vineet Ravindran asked: Is India developing a Hypersonic Glide Vehicle? What is its role in the Indian security environment? Does it enhance deterrence?

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  • Ajey Lele replies: Broadly, there are two main categories of hypersonic weapons, hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) and hypersonic cruise missiles. The HGVs are launched from a rocket towards the target, while hypersonic cruise missiles are powered by high-speed air-breathing engines called scramjets. It has been reported that in September 2020, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully tested a Hypersonic Technology Demonstrated Vehicle (HSTDV), using the indigenously developed scramjet propulsion system, and thus demonstrated its hypersonic air-breathing scramjet technology. This test is known to have lasted for a 23-second flight and is expected to boost India’s hypersonic cruise missile programme. Some reports indicate that India is developing HGV-202F, a hypersonic boost-glide vehicle, which could be mounted on Indian ballistic missile platforms like Agni–V. Also, it has been reported that the DRDO is possibly working on BrahMos–II hypersonic anti-ship missiles, which are expected to obtain over 6 Mach speed using hypersonic scramjet technology.

    Hypersonic weapons are known to be weapons of deterrence since their speed of travel (more than 5 Mach) is capable of penetrating the existing missile defence systems like THAAD or S-400/500. Some reports suggest that China and Russia are developing hypersonic missiles, which could be nuclear-tipped, while the United States is not following that route. India is still in the early phases of technology development and, therefore, has yet to clearly articulate (officially) how it visualises the operational deployment of these weapons once the technology matures fully. 

    Posted on 24 June 2022  

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.