Indian Express 8th September, 2020

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  1. Explained: The significance and capability of the scramjet vehicle
    • News: The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on Monday successfully flight tested the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) – an unmanned scramjet vehicle with a capability to travel at six times the speed of sound.
    • Significance of the test: It is a giant leap in indigenous defence technologies and significant milestone towards a Sashakt Bharat and Atmanirbhar Bharat.
    • The indigenous development of the technology will also boost the development of the systems built with hypersonic vehicles at its core, including both offensive and defensive hypersonic cruise missile systems and also in the space sector.
    • The hypersonic vehicle and its scramjet engine– The scramjets are a variant of a category of jet engines called the air breathing engines.
    • A scramjet is a supersonic combusting ramjet). This is a variant of a ramjet jet engine in which combustion takes place in supersonic airflow.
    • In Ramjet, High-speed forward motion is used to compress the air (no compressor)
    • Scramjet is an improvement over the ramjet engine as it efficiently operates at hypersonic speeds and allows supersonic combustion. Speed is greater than 6 Mach (Six times the speed of Sound).
    • The ability of engines to handle airflows of speeds in multiples of speed of sound, gives it a capability of operating at those speeds.
    • Hypersonic speeds are those which are five times or more than the speed of sound
    • Disadvantages : Very high cost and high thrust-to-weight ratio.
    • Development of the technology: The DRDO started on the development of the engine in early 2010s. 
  2. Explained: In India-China standoff in Ladakh, why Chushul is critical
    • News: The Chushul sub-sector has come into focus in the standoff between the Indian and PLA troops 
    • What is the Chushul sub-sector? The Chushul sub-sector lies south of Pangong Tso in eastern Ladakh. It comprises high, broken mountains and heights of Thatung, Black Top, Helmet Top, Gurung Hill, and Magger Hill besides passes such as Rezang La and Rechin La, the Spanggur Gap, and the Chushul valley.
      • Situated at a height of over 13,000 feet close to the LAC, the Chushul Valley has a vital airstrip that played an important role even during the 1962 War with China.
      • It is here that representatives of the two armies meet for regular interactions
      • What is its strategic importance to India? Because of its location and terrain it is a centre for logistics deployment.
        • This sector has plains that are a couple of kilometres wide, where mechanised forces, including tanks, can be deployed.
        • Its airstrip and connectivity by road to Leh add to its operational advantages.
      • How is Chushul important to China? Simply put, Chushul is the gateway to Leh. If China enters Chushul, it can launch its operations for Leh.
      • What are the future challenges in this area?
        • An immediate challenge is of a flare-up as troops of the two countries are deployed within a distance of 800 to 1,000 metres of each other at Black Top and Rechin La.
        • Logistics also pose a major challenge.
        • At this point, villagers of Chushul are being of great help- ferrying water and essential commodities to the Indian troops deployed at Black Top . Chushul village in Durbuk tehsil is home to around 170 families, most of whom are of Tibetan descent.
        • The harsh winter that lasts for eight months of the year poses a big challenge. It is very difficult to dig in, and make shelters on the ridgeline.

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