Of all the threats of Vladimir Putin, one that is taken most seriously by defence experts is his claim that a ‘high-precision hypersonic missile’, called Kinzhal, (dagger) was recently launched to hit targets in Ukraine. It was disclosed that the hypersonic missile was launched by a Mig-31 to hit an armament factory near Kyiv.

Let us see some basics of what a hypersonic missile is. If the speed of a missile exceeds the speed of sound in vacuum (1235 km per hour), it is called Mach-1. Up to Mach-5 (five times the speed of sound), it is called supersonic and beyond Mach-5, it is hypersonic. Missiles that fly at Mach20 (four miles per second) have been tested. Another feature of hypersonic missiles is their manoeuvrability; they can shift horizontally and vertically during flight. And they operate below an altitude of 90 km, generally at about 30 km, in the Earth’s atmosphere. In what is known as the hypersonic glide vehicle, the missile is carried to a....

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