Russia boasts that its intercontinental hypersonic missile that can fly 27 times the speed of sound and carry a nuclear warhead is OPERATIONAL
- Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said the missile unit had entered combat duty
- The weapon is noted for its ability to make sharp manoeuvres, avoiding defence
- Russian military say the Avangard can fly 27 times the speed of sound
Russia’s defence minister reported to President Vladimir Putin that a new hypersonic weapon of intercontinental range became operational on Friday following years of tests.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu informed Mr Putin that the first missile unit equipped with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle entered combat duty, the Defence Ministry said.
‘I congratulate you on this landmark event for the military and the entire nation,’ Mr Shoigu said later during a conference call.
A new hypersonic weapon of intercontinental range has become operational in Russia. Pictured: an intercontinental ballistic missile lifts off from a truck-mounted launcher in Russia
The Strategic Missile Forces chief, General Sergei Karakayev, said during the call that the Avangard was put on duty with a unit in the Orenburg region in the southern Urals Mountains.
Mr Putin unveiled the Avangard among other prospective weapons systems in his state-of-the-nation address in March 2018, noting that its ability to make sharp manoeuvres on its way to a target will render missile defence useless.
The Russian leader described the nuclear-capable missile as a technological breakthrough comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite.
The Russian leader noted that Avangard is designed using new composite materials to withstand temperatures of up to 2,000C (3,632F) resulting from a flight through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds.
Earlier this week, Mr Putin emphasised that Russia is the only country armed with hypersonic weapons.
He noted that for the first time in history Russia is now leading the world in developing an entire new class of weapons, unlike in the past when it was catching up with the United States.
The military said that the Avangard is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound.
It recorded a speed of 7,000 miles per hour during its first testing in 2016 and the blast yield of a nuclear warhead carried by the Avangard is reportedly more than 2 megatons TNT.
Russian media reports indicated that the Avangard will first be mounted on Soviet-built RS-18B intercontinental ballistic missiles, code-named SS-19 by Nato.
It is expected to be fitted to the prospective Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile after it becomes operational.
The Defence Ministry said last month that it demonstrated the Avangard to a team of US inspectors as part of transparency measures under the New Start nuclear arms treaty with the US.
The US has mulled new defence strategies to counter hypersonic weapons developed by Russia and China.
Earlier this week, Mr Putin emphasised that Russia is the only country armed with hypersonic weapons
US officials have talked about putting a layer of sensors in space to more quickly detect enemy missiles, particularly the hypersonic weapons.
The administration also plans to study the idea of basing interceptors in space, so the US can strike incoming enemy missiles during the first minutes of flight when the booster engines are still burning.
The Pentagon also has been working on the development of hypersonic weapons in recent years, and US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said in August that he believes ‘it’s probably a matter of a couple of years’ before the US has one.
He has called it a priority as the military works to develop new long-range fire capabilities.