India and Russia could be one of the first nations in the world to flight test hypersonic missiles, which fly at five to seven times the speed of sound, giving them capability for a prompt global strike.
"The Hypersonic BrahMos version of the cruise missile would be ready for flight testing in 2017", Sivathanu Pillai, chief executive officer of the Russian-Indian joint venture BrahMos Aerospace said here. The new missiles would be capable of flying at speeds of Mach 5- Mach 7.
"I think we will need about five years to develop the first fully-functional prototype (of the hypersonic missile)", he announced, adding "we have already carried out a series of lab tests at the speed of 6.5 Mach".
India and Russia appear to be close to the US which claimed last year to have successfully tested a missile that travels at five times the speed of sound.
After the test, media reports said that advanced hypersonic missile would be able to bomb anywhere in the world within an hour.
Pillai said that the new missile will be made in three variants -- ground-launched, airborne, and sea-launched.
The official said the new missiles will be supplied only to India and Russia.
The BrahMos Aerospace joint venture currently manufactures BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles based on the Russian-designed NPO Mashinostroyenie 3M55 Yakhont (SS-N- 6).
The BrahMos missile has a range of 290 km and can carry a conventional warhead of up to 300 kg. It can effectively engage targets from an altitude as low as 10 metres and has a top speed of Mach 2.8, which is about three times faster than the US-made subsonic Tomahawk cruise missile.
Sea- and ground-launched versions have been successfully tested and put into service with the Indian Army and Navy.
The flight tests of the airborne version will be completed by the end of 2012.
The Indian Air Force is planning to arm 40 Su-30MKI Flanker-H fighters with BrahMos missiles.