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Written by Talent KAS

Related Topic in KAS Prelims Syllabus:

Science and Technology [Paper-II]: Technology in Space and Defence


  • Russian military deployed a new intercontinental weapon, the Avangard hypersonic missile system that can fly 27 times the speed of sound.
  • Russia claimed that it is the only country in the world that has hypersonic weapons.

What is the Avangard hypersonic missile?

  • It is a reentry body carried atop an existing ballistic missile, which has the capability to manoeuvre.
  • Its manoeuvring capability makes it difficult to predict its trajectory and gives it the ability to protect itself from the air and ballistic missile defences by delivering nuclear warheads to targets, for instance, in Europe and the US.
  • The origins of the Avangard can be traced back to the mid-1980s, when Russia first started research on hypersonic warheads.
  • The Avangard missiles have a range of over 6,000 km, weigh approximately 2,000 kg and can withstand temperatures of over 2000 degree celsius.
  • Avangard can presumably reach speeds upto Mach 20 and can be used to deliver nuclear and conventional payloads.

What are Hypersonic Weapons?

  • Hypersonic weapons are the ones that can fly at speeds greater 5000 km/hr (more than 5 Mach).
  • These weapons fly low, remaining in the endo-atmospheric region (generally at altitudes below about 90 km), thereby reducing the chances of their detection by radar systems.
  • The hypersonic weapons have such speeds that can allow them to strike anywhere on the earth in under an hour.

Two Main Versions of Hypersonic Weapons

Currently two versions of hypersonic weapons are being developed.

Hypersonic Cruise Missiles (HCM)

It is a typical cruise missile which is ‘all the way powered’ to achieve hypersonic speeds of Mach 5 or higher.

Hypersonic Glide Vehicles (HGVs)

  • It is called a ‘wave-rider’ because it uses the shock waves generated by its own flight as a lifting surface to enhance the lift-to-drag ratio to reach the hypersonic regime of Mach 5 or even more.
  • It is launched by any solid propellant rocket/missile which can give it the initial boost and momentum up to a point after which the wave rider phenomenon can be sustained by the hypersonic vehicle on its own.
[Source: Indian Express,]

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