Recently, Russia has fired its Tsirkon Hypersonic Missile from a warship in the north of the country.
- Earlier, it was reported that China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic glide vehicle that circled the globe before speeding towards its target.
About Tsirkon Hypersonic Missile:
- The 3M22 Zircon also spelled as 3M22 Tsirkon is a scramjet powered maneuvering anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile currently in testing by Russia
- The Zircon missile is capable of flying 9 times the speed of sound and hit targets successfully upto a range of 1,000 kms (620 miles).
- The Tsirkon Cruise Missile will join Avangard glide vehicles and the air-launched Kinzhal (Dagger) missiles in Russia’s hypersonic arsenal.
- The missile can develop a speed of Mach 9 and fly at an altitude of 30-40 km where the range and speed increase as air resistance is smaller.
- Experts estimate the payload at 300-400 kg and the missile length at 8-10 meters.
- Tsirkon is to be fired from universal vertical launchers 3S-14 on warships and submarines and from Bastion mobile coastal missile launchers.
- Speed: 5 or more times the Mach or speed of sound.
- Mach Number: It describes an aircraft’s speed compared with the speed of sound in air, with Mach 1 equating to the speed of sound i.e. 343 metre per second.
- Technology Used: Most hypersonic vehicles primarily use the scramjet technology, which is a type of Air Breathing propulsion System.
- This is extremely complex technology, which also needs to be able to handle high temperatures, making the hypersonic systems extremely costly.
- Hypersonic cruise missiles: These are the ones that use rocket or jet propellant through their flight and are regarded as being just faster versions of existing cruise missiles.
- Hypersonic Glide Vehicle (HGV): These missiles first go up into the atmosphere on a conventional rocket before being launched towards their target.
Development of Hypersonic Technology in India:
- India, too, is working on hypersonic technologies.
- As far as space assets are concerned, India has already proved its capabilities through the test of ASAT under Mission Shakti.
- Hypersonic technology has been developed and tested by both DRDO (Defence research and Development Organisation) and ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation).
- Recently, DRDO has successfully flight-tested the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV), with a capability to travel at 6 times the speed of sound.
- Also, a Hypersonic Wind Tunnel (HWT) test facility of the DRDO was inaugurated in Hyderabad. It is a pressure vacuum-driven, enclosed free jet facility that simulates Mach 5 to 12.
Differences between Ballistic Missile and Cruise Missile
|It is propelled only for a brief duration after the launch.
|Self-propelled till the end of its flight.
|Similar to a rocket engine.
|Similar to a jet engine.
|Long-range missiles leave the earth’s atmosphere and reenter it.
|The flight path is within the earth’s atmosphere.
|Low precision as it is unguided for most of its path and its trajectory depends on gravity, air resistance and Coriolis Force.
|Hits targets with high precision as it is constantly propelled.
|Can have a very long range (300 km to 12,000 km) as there is no fuel requirement after its initial trajectory.
|The range is small (below 500 km) as it needs to be constantly propelled to hit the target with high precision.
|Heavy payload carrying capacity.
|Payload capacity is limited.
|Can carry multiple payloads (Multiple Independently targetable Re-entry Vehicle)
|Usually carries a single payload.
|Developed primarily to carry nuclear warheads.
|Developed primarily to carry conventional warheads.
|E.g. Prithvi I, Prithvi II, Agni I, Agni II and Dhanush missiles.
|E.g. BrahMos missiles
India’s Missile Systems
|Prithvi Air Defence (PAD)
|surface-to-surface Anti-tank missile
|land, naval, air
|Supersonic Cruise Missile
|land, naval, air
|Subsonic Cruise Missile
SLBM: Sub-marine launched ballistic missile
|Astra is a beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missile (AAM).In terms of size and weight, the Astra is the smallest missile developed by the DRDO.It was envisaged to intercept and destroy enemy aircraft at supersonic speeds.
|Used as anti-sea skimmer (to fly low to avoid radar) from ships against low-flying attacks.
|It has the capability to “neutralize aerial targets like fighter jets, cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles” as well as ballistic missiles.
|Anti-ballistic missile developed to intercept incoming ballistic missiles outside the atmosphere (exo-atmospheric).
|3rd generation anti-tank ‘fire and forget’ guided missile (lock-on before launch system) where the target is identified and designated before the weapon is launched.
|High manoeuvrability.Primarily a battlefield support system for the Army.
|It is a supersonic cruise missile developed as a joint venture between Indian and Russia.It is the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world.It is the world’s fastest anti-ship cruise missile in operation.
|Subsonic missile which is ancillary (providing necessary support) to the BrahMos range.
|It forms the crucial third leg of India’s nuclear deterrent vis-à-vis its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capability.It was subsequently integrated with India’s nuclear-powered Arihant class submarine.
|It is capable of carrying nuclear warheads.It carries forward the legacy of the K-15 Sagarika.
|Surface-to-surface ballistic missile (SSM) variant of the K-15 Sagarika.The nuclear capability of the missile enhances India’s second-strike capability.It reduces the dependence on the K-15 which was built with Russian assistance.
All the Prithvi variants are surface-to-surface SRBMs.
|Payload in kg
|Air force version
|Payload in kg
|700 – 900 km
|2,000 – 3,000 km
|750 – 1,000
|3,500 – 5,000 km
|2,000 – 2,500
|3,000 – 4,000 km
|800 – 1,000
|5,000 – 8,000 km (Testing)
|1,500 (3 – 10 MIRV)
|8,000 – 10,000 km (Under development)
|1,000 (10 MIRV)
MIRV: Multiple Independently targetable Re-entry Vehicle
Anti-satellite weapons (ASAT)
- In March 2019, India successfully tested its ASAT missile.
- The ASAT missile destroyed a live satellite in Low Earth orbit (283-kilometre).
- As per DRDO, the missile is capable of shooting down targets moving at a speed of 10 km per second at an altitude as high as 1200 km.