Hypersonic on hold?

DRDO has been working on a hypersonic missile for some years now. It has reached testing stage. But a test of the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle — HSTDV-2, scheduled at TsAGI (Central Thermal Hydrodynamics Institute) in the Moscow metropolitan region in December 2014 was abruptly cancelled. The rumour is Finance Ministry did not sanction the few crore rupees worth of funds required for trans-shipping the item, testing it in Moscow, etc. This happened, it is said by those in the know, because of pressure from certain Western quarters rattled by the prospect of India’s acquiring such a potent weapon. A supersonic missile is bad enough. But a hypersonic missile with a scramjet engine (where the through passing air is combusted at supersonic speeds unlike in ramjet engines where the air is slowed down to subsonic speeds before combustion) at Mach 20 plus is so indefensible you might as well give up the ghost. And its has tremendous range extension utility. For instance an Agni-5 with a hypersonic last stage will extend its range well beyond intercontinental distances. The Indian HSTDV-2 with a platypus nose, a titanium underside and an aluminum-niodium topside, could be a strategic killer. Instead of the technology being prioritised for accelerated development the government seems to be holding back. We may be repeating the mistake of not moving quickly and naturally with indigenously developed technology, tarrying, until the big powers wanting to limit the number of those with this lethal technology, slam shut the gates. This happened with nuclear weapons. Nehru and Indira Gandhi tarried, did not quickly weaponise once the threshold was reached in March 1964 and the country paid the price with the 1968 nonproliferation treaty shutting India out. Meanwhile China first tested a fission device in 1964 and by 1969 had gone thermonuclear and weaponised, and look where that got the Chinese! The gates will be shut on this lethal technology to limit the numbers securing it. Delhi better remove the brakes lest India again suffer grievously. Get the HSTDV out to TsAGI Arun Jaitley. The govt is wasting enough time and resources on nearly worthless military acquisitions. It better invest in a technology genuinely of the future. By the way only Russia, US, China and India are working on hypersonics. Russia is the most advanced in the scramjet technology. The US’ Waverider is having problems. The Chinese item — it is difficult to say.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Asian geopolitics, China military, DRDO, Geopolitics, Great Power imperatives, Military Acquisitions, Missiles, Russia, russian assistance, South Asia, Weapons. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Hypersonic on hold?

  1. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    The World’s Largest Democracy listening like a good boy when the World’s Best Democracy speaks. India ka bhi Pakistan bana diya – Allah, America aur Army.

    If this is actually the case then they are wrong in doing so. This, if not corrected in time, has the potential to be as big a wrong decision as our lag on TNs (NPT+123), Agnis (MTCR) and rocketry (Cryogenic engines).

  2. satyaki says:

    Bharat Sir,

    Do you mean HSTDV or HSTDV-2 . Is there any project like the latter ? Open source info indicates that the HSTDV project is for Mach 6.5 scramjet sustaining operations for 20 sec.

    Regarding extending Agni-V range, won’t a boost glide type of warhead be a morre effective option ?

  3. Sam Warren says:


    What is the present status of HSTDV-2 after 9- months ? What did our honorable defence minister MP was doing when FM AJ was crumbling under pressure ?

    So AGNI-X-Version which is suppose to be an ICBM did ever get the union cabinet approval ?

  4. D. S. Negi says:

    The biggest diffetence between a regional power & super power is its quick decision related to defence & of national interest. We have seen this self imposed restriction or ban in agni program. Else up to now we may have built ICBM. & the habit continues. . . . . . Why ????

  5. D. S. Negi says:

    We have seen this earlier when Agni program was also held back which adversely effect the program & we legged behind by 5-10 years. Now applying brake in another sophisticated technology will send back by few more years & India’s position will shift from no. 1 to third fourth . Moreover with the passage of time technology become new or more sophisticated. It is unwise to undo or stop good work done by our scientists. It also discourage them!!!!

  6. hemanth says:

    Sir, what is the current status of this prestigious project? has it been kick started again? sir.

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