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World|politics|October 27, 2021 / 10:19 AM
India among select few countries developing hypersonic weapons technology, says US Congressional report

AKIPRESS.COM - India is among the select few countries worldwide that are developing “hypersonic weapons technology” which threaten to bypass most of the current missile defence systems to deliver nuclear bombs, the quasi - independent US Congressional Research Service (CRS) said in its latest report, Deccan Chronicle reported.

This comes amidst a media report that China had recently tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that circled the globe before moving towards its target, demonstrating an advanced space capability that caught US intelligence by surprise.

Hypersonic missiles fly at speeds of at least Mach 5 (five times the speed of sound) but are more manoeuvrable than ballistic missiles.

“Although the United States, Russia and China have the most advanced hypersonic weapons programmes, a number of other countries -- Australia, India, France, Germany and Japan -- are also developing hypersonic weapons technology,” said the CRS report presented to the US Congress.

India has collaborated with Russia on this, the CRS said in its report. Like India, France has also collaborated and contracted with Russia on the development of hypersonic technology. While Australia has collaborated with the US, Japan is developing the Hypersonic Cruise Missile (HCM) and the Hyper Velocity Gliding Projectile (HVGP), it said.

The report said India had collaborated with Russia on the development of the BrahMos-II, a Mach 7 hypersonic cruise missile. “Although BrahMos-II was initially intended to be fielded in 2017, news reports indicate that the programme facesdelays and is now scheduled to achieve initial operational capability between 2025 and 2028,” said the report.

CRS report said India was reportedly also developing an indigenous, dual-capable hypersonic cruise missile as part of its Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle programme and successfully tested a Mach 6 “Scramjet” in June 2019 and September 2020.

It said India operates approximately 12 hypersonic wind tunnels and is capable of testing speeds of up to Mach 13. The report said hypersonic weapons could challenge detection and defence due to their speed, manoeuvrability and low altitude of flight. “For example, terrestrial-based radar cannot detect hypersonic weapons until late in the weapon’s flight. This delayed detection compresses the timeline for decision-makers assessing their response options and for a defensive system to intercept the attacking weapon -- potentially permitting only a single intercept attempt,” it said.

The report quoted Russian President Vladimir Putin to put forth the point that Russia and China were developing hypersonic weapons as they fear that the US is increasingly deploying more anti-ballistic missiles, improving their quality and creating new missile launching areas. “If we don’t do something, eventually this will result in the total devaluation of Russia’s nuclear potential. This means that all our missiles could simply be intercepted,” the report quoted Mr Putin as saying.

It noted Russia thus seeks hypersonic weapons, which can manoeuvre as they approach their targets, as an assured means of penetrating the US missile defences and restoring its sense of strategic stability.

The Financial Times this week reported that China has tested hypersonic missiles. However, China denied it, saying it tested a hypersonic vehicle and not a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile as reported by the leading British newspaper which also said that the missile missed its target by about two-dozen miles.

While the Chinese missile is said to have missed its target, it showed that the country had the capability to develop such weapons. This took the US by surprise as it had expected China to take much longer to reach this stage. Moreover, experts believe that in case of nuclear weapons, even if the bomb misses its target by a few kilometres, it is still very dangerous.

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