Initial flight trials of an experimental hypersonic low-flying missile that India and Russia are collaboratively creating could take place in approximately five years, the Indo-Asian News Service reported on Thursday (see GSN, June 13, 2011).
The BrahMos 2 cruise missile is envisioned as having the ability to travel at five to seven times the speed of sound.
"I think we will need about five years to develop the first fully-functional prototype (of the hypersonic missile). We have already carried out a series of lab tests at the speed of 6.5 Mach," asserted the chief executive officer of the joint missile project, Sivathanu Pillai.
Pillai said the BrahMos 2 will have three different models that will allow it to be fired from land, air and sea.
Just Russia and India will be able to acquire the next-generation weapon, he said (Indo-Asian News Service/NDTV, June 28).
Experts are skeptical development of the missile will proceed on the timetable described by Pillai, Wired magazine reported.
"There’s little doubt India and Russia are pursuing hypersonic weapons technology, though it remains to be seen whether such an ambitious timescale as suggested for BrahMos 2 could be met," International Institute for Strategic Studies air warfare analyst Douglas Barrie said in an e-mail."The original BrahMos is basically a Russian missile ... so it will be interesting to see the extent to which BrahMos 2 might draw on previous Russian hypersonic research and development."
The United States is also developing hypersonic weapons but is not close to having a finalized prototype ready for mass production (see GSN, May 8).
"You ask the question, how hard is it? The answer is, it’s really hard," former U.S. Air Force head scientist Mark Lewis said to Wired. "It’s not a matter of simply taking a supersonic thing and flying it a little bit faster. The physics work against you, the temperatures get higher, everything really does get harder" (Robert Beckhusen, Wired, June 28).