Russia’s defence minister has called on his country’s military to develop land-based intermediate-range missiles within two years.
In instructions to his ministry on Tuesday, Sergei Shoigu called on the military to adapt existing technology to develop a land-based cruise missile and hypersonic missile that would previously have been banned by the intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF) treaty.
The United States and Russia announced they would halt their participation in the treaty last week.
Although Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, has said that Moscow should not participate in a new arms race with Washington, Russia has now signalled it will develop new land-based missiles as quickly and at as low a cost as possible.
Mr Shoigu on Tuesday told his ministry to develop the new weapons by adapting existing missiles to be launched from land. The INF specifically limited land-based missiles, a condition that Russia has claimed was advantageous to the United States.
“Ground-launched modifications of sea- and air-launched missiles will significantly cut the production period of new missile systems and reduce the production budget,” Mr Shoigu said, according to remarks carried by Russian state news agencies.
They include a nuclear-capable cruise missile called Kalibr, which Russia has launched in repeated naval strikes at Syria since 2015. The missile, which has an estimated range of at least 2,500km, could reach most of continental Europe and the UK if stationed in western Russia or the Kaliningrad region. Russian news agencies have reported that the country is working on an extended-range version that could travel 4,500km.
Russia earlier this week said it would not station intermediate-range weapons in Europe as long as it did not see similar steps by the United States.
Mr Shoigu said the country’s new land-based intermediate-range missiles should also incorporate hypersonic technology – which allows missiles to travel at more than five times the speed of sound. Russia revealed it was developing several hypersonic missile systems last year.
“We must design a ground-launched modification of the sea-launched long-range Kalibr cruise missile system, which has proven its worth in Syria, in 2019-2020,” Mr Shoigu told his ministry during a teleconference on Tuesday. “We also must create a ground-launched long-range hypersonic missile system within the same period of time.”
The INF treaty, concluded in the final years of the cold war, banned the deployment of short and medium-range missiles with a range of 500km to 5,500km by both countries. The pact is credited with helping to keep nuclear-capable missiles out of Europe.
Washington exited the treaty because it said that Russia had developed a cruise missile with greater than 500km range, an accusation that Russia has denied. – Guardian