Fwd = Russia suspected of ultra-high speed missile test
- Forwarded by: fwestra@... (Frits Westra)
Original Date: Fri, 3 Aug 2001 04:41:13 -0700
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Russia suspected of ultra-high speed missile test
18:18 31 July 01
As US President George W. Bush pushes ahead with the controversial
National Missile Defence System, Russia appears to be testing a new
generation of ultra-high speed missiles.
US defence analysts have highlighted recent tests, originating in
central Russia, that involved the launch of a 20-metre long SS-25
intercontinental ballistic missile. Of particular interest is the
flight path of its final stage.
The analysts say that instead of its normal ballistic trajectory, it
flew on a high altitude, level course at around 30,000 metres. Its
speed is thought to have been in excess of five times the speed of
sound. They claim that such flight characteristics indicate that it
was powered by a scramjet engine.
A scramjet is a combustion jet engine in which the airflow remains
above Mach One at all times. In comparison, a ramjet engine can only
operate if the air flow is is reduced to sub-sonic velocities at all
Russian scramjet research is considered to be among the most advanced
in the world. However, a senior UK defence analyst questions whether
it is possible to infer that a scramjet was involved in the test.
"Based on the sketchy information at hand, two possibilities - perhaps
a combination of both - immediately spring to mind," says Duncan
Lennox, editor of Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems.
"The first is that the range of the re-entry vehicle was extended by
the use of wings - this is not a new technique. The second is that a
ramjet was ignited at an altitude of 30 km when the vehicle would have
been travelling at around Mach Seven. As the Russians lead the world
in ramjet research, this would be perfectly feasible."
Lennox is doubtful that scramjet powered cruise missiles are likely to
enter service in the next 10 years: 'Looking into the future in that
approximate time frame, we may see them, but it's pretty unlikely
18:18 31 July 01
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