India’s quest to become self-reliant or Atmanirbhar has seen the country make significant strides in the development of cutting-edge aerospace technology. One area of particular focus has been ramjet engines, which have the potential to revolutionize the aerospace industry.
About Ramjet Engines
Ramjet engines are a type of jet engine that differs from traditional engines in that they use the forward motion of a vehicle to compress incoming air, which is then burned with fuel in the compressed air without the need for rotating compressor blades. They operate only when the vehicle is travelling at high speeds, typically supersonic speeds, and are suitable for use in applications that require high speeds, such as missiles and some experimental aircraft. However, their efficiency is limited to high speeds, and they require additional systems to start and sustain combustion.
Despite their limitations at lower speeds, ramjet engines are simple in design and have no moving parts, making them lightweight and easy to maintain. They have the potential to be used in a wide range of applications, including hypersonic weapons, air-breathing propulsion systems, and space vehicles.
India’s own Ramjet Engine
India’s progress in ramjet engine development is impressive, with the country successfully testing a solid fuel ducted ramjet (SFDR) engine in 2021. The C is designed to be used in missiles and can reach speeds of up to Mach 3.5, demonstrating India’s commitment to developing cutting-edge aerospace technology. However, this is one of the 55 high priority projects under Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) which have failed to meet the project deadline.
In March 2021, India successfully conducted a flight demonstration utilising the Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) technology at a defence facility located near the Odisha coast. During the test, a prototype of an air-to-air missile, which utilizes the SFDR technology, was launched from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) to assess the system’s performance. Following this, the nozzle-less booster was ignited, which increased acceleration to reach the required Mach number for ramjet operation.
The development of the engine, which is still in the early stages has the potential to revolutionise the aerospace industry, but there is still much work to be done. India will need to continue investing in research and development to make this technology a reality.
In a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha earlier this week minister of state for defence Ajay Bhatt had said that nine of the 23 projects of DRDO have undergone cost overruns. According to him “not all cost overruns were necessitated due to time overruns.”
Adding that DRDO’s 55 high-priority projects could not meet the deadlines, and these include solid fuel ducted ramjet technology, surface-to-air missiles, anti-ship missiles, long-range radars, combat vehicles, anti-air field weapons, combat suits for submarines, high endurance autonomous underwater vehicles, and submarine periscopes, etc.