Key point: Hypersonic missiles are all the rage these days among the great powers as they are very hard to stop.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s March 1, 2018 annual annual state-of-the-nation address became his most-cited since his 2007 Munich speech. “Listen to us now,” he warned NATO after unveiling several hypersonic, nuclear-capable weapons: the Kinzhal missile system, Sarmat ICBM, and the Avangard glide vehicle.
The March 1st adress fell under a similar criticism: the Kremlin is bluffing, signaling capabilities that it doesn’t have to drive NATO to the negotiating table on terms favorable to Russia. But subsequent developments have borne out an altogether different truth: these weapons are, in fact, quite real, and pose varying levels of strategic threat.
The latest confirmation of Russia’s hypersonic weapons development progress came earlier today, when President Putin announced that the Avangard system had been successfully tested: "On my instructions the industrial enterprises and the Defense Ministry have prepared for and carried out the final test of this system… the test was completely successful: all technical parameters were verified," he said to his cabinet.
Putin added that Avangard is on the verge of deployment readiness: "Starting from next year, in 2019, a new intercontinental strategic system Avangard will enter service in the Russian army and the first regiment in the Strategic Missile Troops will be deployed."
Avangard, also known as “Objekt 4202,” is a hypersonic boost-glide missile system that is supposed to combine a high-performance ballistic missile with an unmanned glider vehicle for significant improvements in maneuverability and sustained top speed. This technology allows Avangard missiles to travel at up to 20 Mach or approximately 24,700 km per hour, a speed made possible by the use of “new composite materials” to stay within a stable range of 1,600 to 2,000 degrees celsius.