Russia’s New Avangard Hypersonic Glide Vehicle, 27 Time Speed of Sound


Russia’s New Avangard Hypersonic Missile which
flies 27 times faster than the speed of sound. On 26 December, the Kremlin reported that
the Russian Defence Ministry had test-launched the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which
flies 27 times faster than the speed of sound. The US military has nothing to set against
the new missile, the respected daily Die Welt stated.
The successfully launched hypersonic glide vehicle Avangard, dubbed a “New Year’s present
to the nation” by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has alarmed military and defence experts
in the US and Europe, according to the German outlet.
On 26 December, the weapon was launched from a missile base in the southern Ural Mountains
and successfully hit a practice target on Kamchatka, 6,000 kilometres (3,700 miles)
away. Die Welt points out that it has long been
known to the West that the Russians have been developing and testing hypersonic weapons
(the work on the Avangard began after 2002 when the US withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty and began developing defences against ballistic missiles).
Although the glider, able to carry mega ton weapon, was presented along with SARMAT missile
system tests, super-fast drone torpedoes, cruise missiles with nuclear power plants,
the air missile system “Kinzhal” as well as laser and hyper-sonic weapons as one of
the newest additions to the Russian arms complex in March, the newspaper claims it to be proof
of sabre-rattling by the great powers in the wake of US President Donald Trump announcing
his country’s withdrawal from the 1987 INF Treaty in October.
What makes Avangard unique is its manoeuverability as the vehicle constantly changes its course
and altitude while it flies through the atmosphere, zigzagging on its path to its target, making
it impossible to predict the weapon’s location, as former Russian Defence Minister Sergei
Ivanov revealed. This characteristic ensures that the target
this hypersonic missile is actually heading to remains virtually secret, according to
the US think tank Rand Corporation. According to Die Welt, current US radars cannot
yet locate such a missile over sufficient distances.
“You have to cover thousands of miles, not hundreds”, chief engineer of the Pentagon
and ex-chief of NASA Michael Griffin told an expert panel shortly before the test launch,
pointing out at the curvature of the globe, limiting the coverage of radars, taking the
vastness of the western Pacific Ocean and the lack of islands for radar.
According to the outlet, the US would probably have to install a network of reconnaissance
sensors in space to handle this problem. Griffin also pointed out that not only Russia, but
also China is working intensively on hypersonic weapons, surpassing the US.
“China tested more hypersonic weapons last year than we did in a decade. We have to change
that”, he stated. “We have no defence that could prevent the
use of such a weapon against us”, said John Hyten, the head of the Strategic Command of
the United States to the US Senate Armed Forces Committee in late March.
Pressed with these developments, the Pentagon research agency Darpa published an urgent
call under the slogan “Glide Breaker Programme” to the industry on 6 November to come up with
suggestions how a defence system for hyper-sonic weapon gliders in the upper air layers would
look like. However, Die Welt points out that the details remain secret.
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