Russia ‘deploys’ hypersonic missile
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the first Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle had been given to frontline troops.
There is no way of confirming if the development process has been completed or if the missile still needs more tests.
The “glide system” offers great manoeuvrability and could make them nearly impossible to defend against.
The Strategic Missile Forces commander, General Sergei Karakayev, said the Avangard was deployed in the Orenburg region in the southern Urals.
The missile can reportedly fly at least five times and up to 27 times the speed of sound or approximately one mile a second.
Its composite materials mean it can withstand temperatures of up to 2,000°C, resulting from a flight through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds.
One crucial Cold-War treaty, the New Start deal, is set to expire in February 2021. Russia says it is willing to extend the deal but the US appears sceptical. Several nuclear weapons are close to entering service and many observers believe new treaties are needed to control a reinvigorated nuclear arms race.
President Vladimir Putin unveiled six weapons in March last year and said the new hypersonic missile could strike “like a fireball”.
He said the Avangard could make sharp manoeuvres on its way to a target to render missile defences useless.
It can also carry a nuclear weapon of up to 2 mega-tonnes.
Of the six weapons Putin mentioned, two have been deployed with the other an air-launched cruise missile.
The air-to-ground hypersonic missile dubbed “Kinzhal” (dagger) has been tested and is expected to be deployed next year.
In March, around 20 Kinzhal missiles were purportedly moved to a testing site.
This week Putin, who marks 20 years in power this month, said Russia was the only country armed with hypersonic missiles. For the first time, he said Russia was leading the world in weaponry rather than scrambling to catch up with the US, as it had done in the past.
The US has suggested putting sensors in space to detect missiles and possibly strike them during the first minutes of flight when the booster engines are still burning.
Washington has also been developing hypersonic weapons with Defence Secretary Mark Esper saying in August that “it’s probably a matter of a couple of years” before the US could deploy similar missiles.
He has called the development of long-range options a priority.
Picture credit: Wikimedia