BRAHMOS Hypersonic Cruise Missile
On August 20, 1998, US Navy in a bid to destroy Al Qaeda training camps in eastern Afghanistan and hoping to capture its leader Osama bin Laden attacked the camps with Tomahawks flying at a top speed of 550 mph (~0.8 Mach). The missile took two hours to travel 1100 miles from the Arabian Sea but by then, Bin laden had disappeared – missed by almost an hour.
This and numerous other examples have outlined the importance of time in a similar scenario and have convinced the users that in the coming years they will need much faster missiles against threats – terrorist leaders, pirates, low intensity conflicts and also in war theatre.
Presently BRAHMOS is the only supersonic cruise missile in service. Effort is on in a number of countries to achieve supersonic speeds and parallel work is going on for hypersonic cruise missiles as well. BrahMos, India and Russia’s Joint Venture, is also moving ahead with its hypersonic version BRAHMOS-II which will have a scramjet engine in place of ramjet. As a variation of the ramjet, scramjets allow combustion to occur in a supersonic airflow, thereby expanding the operating range above 4 Mach.
The hypersonic weapon’s immense destructive power will result from kinetic energy. An object striking a target at 6 Mach will generate 36 times the force of an object of the same mass striking the target at 1 Mach. This phenomenon makes hypersonic weapons well suited to attacking hardened or deeply buried targets such as bunkers or nuclear and biological-weapon storage facilities.