How long Russia will maintain leadership in the hypersonic weapons development?

MOSCOW, (BM) – The maximum speed of the Kinzhal and Tsircon hypersonic systems will be increased to more than 10 Mach numbers. The United States recognizes the lag behind Russia in hypersonic technology by several years, but the American-designed rocket has the promise of an opportunity to reach speeds of up to 20 Mach numbers. How long can Russia maintain leadership in the development of these weapons?

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Russian gunsmiths will increase the maximum speed of hypersonic missiles of the Kinzhal air complex and the Tsircon ground-sea complex to more than 10 Mach numbers (12.25 thousand kilometers per hour at the surface of the earth). According to Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko in an interview with the Red Star, such characteristics as range and accuracy are being improved at the same time.

“The work is aimed at expanding the scope, range of weapons and improving its tactical and technical characteristics. New samples of such weapons should provide highly effective target destruction both in operational-tactical and strategic depths,” said Krivoruchko.

Earlier, President Vladimir Putin stated that the Tsircon shipboard rocket under development would have a speed of nine Mach numbers (11 thousand kilometers per hour), as well as that its ground version would be created. As for the “Kinzhal,” his ability to reach speeds of more than 10 Mach numbers was initially reported — since the president announced last spring that the rocket was called the “killer of aircraft carriers.”

This week, Putin held a meeting of the board of the Ministry of Defense. On it, he said that now no one in the world possesses hypersonic weapons, except for Russia. “Today we have a unique situation in our new and recent history: they are catching up with us. Not a single country today has hypersonic weapons at all, and continental-range hypersonic weapons even more so,” the president said.

Read more: Russia Successfully Tests the Hypersonic Missile “Avangard”. The U.S.: In a War We Would Win

Putin added that “Kinzhal” and “Peresvet” laser systems were in the army, equipment of the first regiment began with the Avangard hypersonic intercontinental complex.

The hypersonic solid-fuel aeroballistic missile “Kinzhal“, according to the military, is guaranteed to overcome all existing air defense and missile defense systems, delivering nuclear and conventional warheads to a range of up to 2 thousand kilometers. At the beginning of the year, the pilots launched these missiles and hit targets at a distance of thousands of kilometers. The complex has been in service since December 2017 in the Southern Military District. At the end of November, “Kinzhal” were first tested in the Arctic.

The editor of the magazine Arsenal of the Fatherland, Alexei Leonkov, explained that increasing the maximum speed allows improving the ability of shells to overcome both existing and future missile defense systems. “Americans are catching up with us in the area of ​​controlled hypersound. They are working not only on striking means, but also trying to create an anti-aircraft guided hypersonic missile so that it becomes the tool with which they are going to bring down such complexes,” Leonkov said.

According to him, according to preliminary characteristics of the rocket created by the Americans, it will be able to fly at a speed of 5-6 Mach numbers. “The Americans have not yet reached a prototype, but are working on it. It’s clear that the improvement of Russian hypersonic systems is a bookmark for the future, ahead of schedule,” the expert explained.

In early December, Pentagon chief Mark Esper acknowledged the United States lagged behind Russia in developing hypersonic weapons. “A few years ago, we took a break with regard to these technologies. Then we were clearly in the lead. Now we are catching up,” said Esper.

Read more: Russia has unveiled several hypersonic nuclear weapons for only 24 months

According to him, the Ministry of Defense is investing every dollar in order to gain an advantage over Russia in the development of hypersonic weapons. For the past few years, Americans have been developing the AGM-183 hypersonic missile. The first production model should be ready in 2022. Some sources indicate that rocket speed can reach up to 20 Mach numbers.

The editor-in-chief of the National Defense magazine Igor Korotchenko agrees that the higher the speed, the lower the possibility of interception. American air defense, missile defense, including ship-based, are designed to intercept targets with certain characteristics. But the “Kinzhalr” and “Tsircon” will be practically impossible to intercept with existing systems if they follow the target at a speed of 10 Mach numbers.

The lag of the Americans from Russia in the development of hypersonic technologies lies, in particular, in the absence of a MiG-31 class aircraft. “The MiG-31BM fighter (large modernization) has unique characteristics, including the basing version, like the MiG-31K for the Kinzhal complex. We have a huge handicap at the expense of the Soviet legacy,” the source said.

Earlier in military circles, they promised to adapt fifth-generation Su-57 fighters to Kinzhal. The project can be implemented after 2030. Now, except for the MiG-31 (one missile), the “Kinzhal” are capable of carrying a Tu-22MZM long-range aircraft (up to four missiles). According to Korotchenko, the Americans are on the heels of Russia and at some point can catch up, but such a result will be achieved at a huge cost. Russia is developing hypersonic technologies at a lower cost.

Read more: Russia’s Avangard missile is still deadly and the U.S. military has no defense against it

Leonkov assured that increasing the maximum speed would not worsen other missile characteristics. Moreover, the potential inherent in them is designed for much higher speeds than 10 Mach numbers. In this regard, the prospect of the United States to catch up with Russia in the field of hypersonic technology is very vague. “We can control the projectile at speeds and 27 Mach numbers. We have long passed the stage when we acted in a limited way. We can simultaneously control several devices at once, which, making an unpredictable trajectory flight, will nevertheless achieve their goal. The Russian Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile RS-28 receives warheads with such properties. There will be 10-15 of them and they will maneuver at very high speeds, and these speeds are significantly higher than 10 Mach numbers,” said Alexei Leonkov.

Korotchenko recalled that Russia is improving its hypersonic weapons as part of the deterrence concept, because “we are not going to attack the United States or NATO.” “But the potential adversary must understand that the presence of such weapons in our arsenal will mean fatal consequences for him if he enters into a war with us. Thus, we maintain a balance, restrain the potential aggressor from unreasonable and reckless decisions regarding Russia,” the expert said.

Krivoruchko also informed the Red Star about the start of serial production of the Vanguards. The first to re-equip the Dombarovsky Strategic Missile Forces compound. Equipment was also supplied for two stationary-based launchers to continue the rearmament of the Kozelsky Strategic Missile Forces on Avangard.

Read more: The Russia’s Avangard Hypersonic Missile Systems Will Go on Experimental Combat Duty

In addition, in 2020, the Ministry of Defense plans to conclude a new three-year contract for the manufacture of Yars missile systems “for the re-equipment of three more missile regiments, as well as for the manufacture of the Sirena-M mobile missile complex with their delivery until 2025.” In 2020, it is planned to complete the bulk of ground-based experimental testing and begin flight tests of the Sarmat missile system.

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