Why the ‘Russian beast’ – Avangard hypersonic missile system is a nightmare for the US
PANAGYURISHTE, (BM) – Two days ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a statement and said that the latest and most modern system for launching hypersonic rockets Avangard is already in service in the Russian Armed Forces.
In our media, we have often written about this Russian missile system, mostly providing test information, but we have not described in detail what the real reason is that the world thinks the Russia’s Avangard is a real “beast” in the development of hypersonic military technologies.
In the following lines you will discover the secret of Russian hypersonic production, which defines the Avangard as a truly dangerous new generation weapon.
What Avangard hypersonic missile system really is?
The Avangard missile system is made up of two basic units – a heavy-duty vehicle with a powerful sliding launcher and various ballistic missiles, depending on the target to be hit. Missiles can be nuclear or conventional.
According to various sources, a rocket fired from the Avangard system can carry a nuclear warhead of up to 2 megatons of TNT.
The Avangard can launch missiles vertically and horizontally, making the system maneuverable in terms of initial target selection.
According to some experts, missiles used by the Russia’s Avangard system are maneuverable both horizontally and vertically, making them difficult to intercept. There is, however, another opinion from some US experts who dispute this claim on the part of the Russian military.
Initially, this system was known as Project 4202, which is not surprising since the initial Russians military developments are called in that way. In fact, these names are available to the general public, over time choosing the correct name to represent the weapon.
According to various sources, the first test flight of a Avangard missile was conducted within 9 months between 2015 and 2016. The missile was the UB-100UTTKh ICBM which will be discussed below. It reached a speed of 11,200 kilometers per hour and was able to successfully hit its target near a range in Kamchatka, Russia.
Following are a few more tests in late 2016 and early 2018 with different missiles.
At the end of 2018, with another missile test, the missile flies at 27 times the speed of sound. To get an idea of what it is, keep in mind that the missile travels 7100 kilometers per second.
What kind of missiles can the Avangard missile system work with?
According confirmed information from the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation so far, the missile system can operate with three Russian rocket models, which are: UR-100N, R-36 and RS-28 Sarmat.
The UR-100N is an intercontinental ballistic missile powered by liquid fuel. It is 27 meters long and 2.5 meters in diameter. This missile flies a distance of 10,000 km and can carry up a warheads with 6 Mt charge.
To give you an idea of how far this target can hit, here is an example:
- if Avangard launches a UR-100N missile from Moscow, it will hit a target in Los Angeles even if it flies over all Europe and North Atlantic Ocean.
A missile that has been designed since the time of the USSR can still be used and even with it is a legal test of the avangard missile system. This is the RS-36 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile or better known as the Cyclone. Western countries, and NATO in particular, are naming the missile named SS-18 Satan.
Many American experts believe that this is precisely the missile that favored the USSR over USA during the Cold War.
This rocket can carry up to three nuclear warheads, but note – only its oldest version. Currently, the missile has a total of six models, each of which can carry a different amount of warheads, the latest model – up to 10 warheads.
To get a bigger picture, one of the modern American Intercontinental Minuteman III rockets can carry up to three warheads.
Perhaps the most dangerous missile that can be launched with the Avangard missile system is the RS-28 Sarmat. It is a rocket capable of carrying between 10 and 15 light warheads at a speed of 27 times the speed of sound. It covers approximately 17,000 to 18,000 kilometers.
According to the above characteristics, the rocket can deliver a charge of up to 50 megatons.
Sarmat has a short boost phase, which shortens the interval when it can be tracked by satellites with infrared sensors, such as the U.S. Space-Based Infrared System, making it more difficult to intercept. It is speculated that the Sarmat could fly a trajectory over the South Pole, completely immune to any current missile defense system, and that it has the Fractional Orbital Bombardment (FOBS) capability.
According to various sources, RS-28’s launch sites are to be equipped with the “Mozyr” active protection system, designed to negate potential adversary’s first strike advantage by kinetically destroying incoming bombs, cruise missiles and ICBM warheads at altitudes of up to 6 km.
What damage the Avangard hypersonic missile system can cause?
According to some estimates, a 10-kiloton nuclear bomb that explodes over the White House would kill 130, 230 people and injured about 173,000 more.
Sarmat rockets can carry warheads of up to 50 megatons. You can imagine for yourself the destruction that this rocket would cause.
Is there any current protection in the world from the Avangard hypersonic missile system?
Over the last decade, Russia has invested a lot of its military budget in the development of hypersonic missiles to carry nuclear warheads.
We can say that only Russians are the leader in this field at the moment. These programs are just beginning in the US, Canada, the UK and Germany.
So far, there is no known method of counteracting a hypersonic rocket, just assumptions.
Although there are no current countermeasures in place, technologies such as directed energy weapons, particle beams and other non-kinetic weapons will be likely candidates for an effective defence against hypersonic missiles.
“Hypersonic weapons reduce the time required to prosecute a target (especially compared to current subsonic cruise missiles), the warning time available to an adversary, and the time available for defensive systems to engage the incoming threat,” says Bosbotinis.
Although hypersonic threats would pose a significant challenge to current surface-to-air and air-to-air missile systems, such systems would, particularly in the conventional precision strike role, require a robust intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) network.
“Targeting the supporting network kinetically and through means such as cyber and electronic attacks could significantly degrade the operational effectiveness of long-range hypersonic weapons. In addition, counterforce operations targeting the launch platforms ‘left-of-launch’ can be undertaken, although, this may not be possible in the case of long-range systems such as the Kinzhal and Avangard. In the mid-to-long term, directed energy weapons and electromagnetic rail guns, as well as enhanced performance missile interceptors, could provide defence against hypersonic threats.”
The USN is already close to outfitting its ships with a 150-kilowatt laser that will be able to target missiles, drones and other modern threats.
Another countermeasure has been proposed by the Missile Defense Agency. A network of space-based satellites and sensors would theoretically be able to track hypersonic glide vehicles globally. This would be a huge first step in hypersonic missile defence. In addition, Lockheed Martin was awarded a $2.9 bn contract to develop Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared Satellites. There is a high chance that these satellites will aim to fill the hole that exists for early supersonic/hypersonic detection.
Looking towards 2020, where new capabilities will be fielded, it is uncertain as to what new deterrence frameworks will be implemented.
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The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.