Bullish Putin unveils ‘invulnerable’ nuclear weapon
Missile capable of flight 20 times speed of sound, bypassing defence, claims president
A test launch of an Avangard new hypersonic missile in the Orenburg region. Photograph: Ministry of defence of the Russian Federation/via Reuters
Russian president Vladimir Putin has overseen a test of a hypersonic glide missile, saying it is impossible to intercept.
Mr Putin said the development will ensure the country’s security for decades to come. Speaking to Russia’s top military brass after watching the live feed of the Avangard launch from the defence ministry’s control room, Mr Putin said the successful test was a “great success” and an “excellent new year’s gift to the nation”.
The test comes amid bitter tensions in Russia-US relations, which have sunk to their lowest level since cold war times over conflict in Ukraine, war in Syria and allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
Mr Putin’s hopes for repairing ties with Washington under US president Donald Trump have faded amid investigations into allegations of Mr Trump’s campaign ties with Russia. Moreover, tensions have escalated as the US administration hit Russia with further sanctions.
The Avangard was among an array of latest generation nuclear weapons that Mr Putin presented in March. At the time he said Russia had to develop them in response to the development of a US missile defence system which could erode Russia’s nuclear deterrent.
In Wednesday’s test, the weapon was launched from the Dombarovskiy missile base in the southern Ural Mountains.
The Kremlin said it successfully hit a designated practice target on the Kura shooting range on Kamchatka, some 6,000km (3,700 miles) away.
“The Avangard is invulnerable to intercept by any existing and prospective missile defence means of the potential adversary,” said Mr Putin after the test. He added that the new weapon will enter service next year with the military’s Strategic Missile Forces.
When first presenting the Avangard in March, the Russian leader said the new system has an intercontinental range and can fly in the atmosphere at 20 times the speed of sound, bypassing the enemy’s missile defence.
He emphasised that no other country has hypersonic weapons.
Mr Putin has said that Avangard is designed using new composite materials to withstand temperatures of up to 2,000 degrees that come from a flight through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds. – PA