India claims it flew a perfect scramjet test at Mach 6 on Monday.
A government announcement says the vehicle hitched a ride on a rocket that ascended to an altitude of 30km before launching the “Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle
“The cruise vehicle separated from the launch vehicle and the air intake opened as planned. The hypersonic combustion sustained and the cruise vehicle continued on its desired flight path at a velocity of six times the speed of sound i.e., nearly 02 km/second for more than 20 seconds,” the announcement added. “The critical events like fuel injection and auto ignition of scramjet demonstrated technological maturity. The scramjet engine performed in a text book manner.”
Telemetry from the craft and observations led Indian authorities to state: “All the performance parameters have indicated a resounding success of the mission.” India hasn’t released details or images of the vehicle, but did publish the launch video below.
India’s prime minister chipped in with a canned quote about the test being a fine moment in the nation’s drive for self-sufficiency in defense hardware.
Reg readers may recall that India’s done this sort of thing before, notably in a 2016 test flight that saw a scramjet ignite for five seconds. Yesterday’s test lasted rather longer, suggesting India is on the way to developing vehicles with longer ranges.
Which is where things get interesting because China, Russia and the USA are all developing hypersonic weapons. Such craft are strategically significant because they’re so fast that detecting an incoming strike is horrendously hard and developing countermeasures harder still. It’s also vastly difficult to build hypersonic craft because anything moving at 7,000km/h has all sorts of challenges with heat and vibration.
India already has a substantial and capable military and is one of few nations to possess nuclear weapons, operate a blue-water navy and run a space program.