PANAGYURISHTE, (BM) – In recent months, the whole world has been talking about Russia’s S-400 defense system and its ability to detect and shoot at all types of aircraft, including stealth. Turkey and India have already bought the S-400 air-defense missile system from Russia, and Iran wants to do the same.
The focus has already shifted, leaving something more dangerous in the background than S-400 – Russia’s serious progress in the process of developing and testing hypersonic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
Just two years ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an unequivocal warning to NATO and the US, revealing to the world what Russia has been secretly developing over the last decade – the hypersonic nuclear-capable missiles Kinzhal, Sarmat and Avangard.
Perhaps the most dangerous of them is Avangard, and this fact provokes many questions, as is the world prepared to defend itself?
Is the US prepared to defend itself?
What Avangard missile really is?
According to Wikipedia, the Avangard previously known as Objekt 4202, Yu-71 and Yu-74, is a Russian hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), that can be carried as a MIRV payload by the UR-100UTTKh, R-36M2 and RS-28 Sarmat heavy ICBMs. It can deliver both nuclear and conventional payloads.
The Avangard was reportedly flight tested between February 2015 and June 2016 on board UR-100UTTKh ICBMs launched from Dombarovsky Air Base, Orenburg Oblast, when it reached a speed of 11,200 kilometres per hour (7,000 mph; 3,100 m/s) and successfully hit targets at the Kura Missile Test Range, Kamchatka Krai.
In October 2016, another flight test was carried out using a R-36M2 heavy ICBM launched from Dombarovsky Air Base, successfully hitting a target at the Kura Missile Test Range. This was reportedly the first fully successful test of the glide vehicle.
On 1 March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin in his presidential address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow announced that testing of the weapon is now complete and that it has entered serial production. This was further confirmed by the commander of Russian Strategic Missile Forces, Colonel General Sergei Karakayev.
“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.” Putin said.
The latest flight test occurred on 26 December 2018. Avangard, carried by a UR-100UTTKh ICBM launched from Dombarovsky Air Base, successfully hit a target at the Kura Missile Test Range. The Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Yury Borisov stated a day later that the glider flew at 27 times the speed of sound, “invulnerable for interception”.
According to Russian Defense Ministry’s press service/TASS, Avangard missile system with the hypersonic glide-vehicle was demonstrated to the US inspection group in accordance with the New START treaty procedures on November 24-26, 2019.
When approaching a target, the glider is capable of sharp high speed horizontal and vertical evasive maneuvers in flight, making it “absolutely invulnerable for any missile defence system,” according to Russian officials. According to Russian President Putin, Avangard strikes “like a meteorite, like a fireball”. The blast yield of a nuclear warhead carried by the Avangard is reportedly more than 2 megatons TNT.
Russia’s competitors are looking for excuses and that is a mistake
In early 2019, many “experts” spoke about the tests conducted on the Russian Avangard missile and how dangerous it is for the US and the rest of the world.
According to some of them Avangard as a delivery system for nuclear warheads, Avangard does not actually enhance Russia’s military arsenal. That’s because Russia’s ICBMs already possess the range to strike targets all over the world and the speed to evade all but the luckiest shot by American missile defenses.
Indeed, ICBMs in the terminal phase of their flight are already hypersonic. The avant-garde flies lower in the atmosphere than the ICBM does and might be faster than the ICBM is in the early phases of flight. The practical differences end there.
“I don’t think this system brings any new capability that existing weapons like ICBMs don’t have,” Pavel Podvig, an independent expert on Russian military, told The Daily Beast.
America’s own nukes deter Russia from using its nukes, and vice versa. Labeling a new weapon “hypersonic” does not alter that balance of power.
For that reason, the nuclear-armed Avangard is mostly for show. It looks fearsome and sounds cool. “There is a lot of political theater out there,” the feat said.
James Acton, a weapons expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., said a nuclear-armed hypersonic weapon is no more threatening than an older ICBM is. “What worries me is a very long-range conventionally-armed system,” he added.
It’s China, not Russia!
It’s China, not Russia, that’s making what seem the biggest strides toward fielding a non-nuclear hypersonic weapon. But even China’s new weapon is less fearsome than it might appear to be. Ironically, its own sophistication holds it back.
Around the same time Putin announced the results of the Avangard test, a photo appeared online that showed a Chinese warship sailing the open ocean while armed with an electromagnetic railgun that could be capable of firing shells at hypersonic velocity.
A railgun propels its projectiles by way of magnetic force, as opposed to explosive-powder charges that conventional guns use.
China’s railgun first appeared in January 2018 in a photo of the Chinese navy landing vessel Haiyang Shan while the ship reportedly was at a facility in Wuhan on the Yangtze River. A large cannon was visible on Haiyang Shan’s forward deck.
In March, Chinese state media confirmed the cannon was an experimental railgun. The December photo seemed to confirm that the gun had undergone at-sea tests, making it the first such weapon to do so.
The U.S. Navy since 2012 has been developing its own railgun, but as of early 2019 the weapon had yet to go to sea. That doesn’t mean the Americans weren’t working on super-fast weapons, however.
However, the reality is different
For most of the past year and a half, the United States has continued to rely on “experts” in the area under study.
At the end of 2018, the U.S. television channel CNBC, citing U.S. intelligence sources said Russia could not start production of the hypersonic weapon because the Kremlin had failed to obtain critical components, including a carbon fiber component, without which the missile could not function.
According to the U.S. intelligence, the body of the hypersonic glide vehicle cannot withstand the heat, wherefore the internal systems would be damaged.
This statement also proved to be incorrect. Secretly and gradually Russia overcame all obstacles to the creation of the Avangard missile.
In doing so, Russia has refuted US claims that the Russian military industry cannot produce weapons.
So just weeks ago a press release from the Russian Ministry of Defense came.
The first two UR-100N UTTKh intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) outfitted with the Avangard nuclear boost-glide vehicle will go on experimental combat duty in the coming weeks, learned BulgarianMilitary.com.
Work is underway to prepare and place missiles into the silo, a source in the defense industry told TASS – “In late November – early December, two UR-100N UTTKh missiles equipped with hypersonic glide vehicles from the first regiment of Avangard systems will assume experimental combat duty in the Dombarovsky Division of the Strategic Missile Force,” the source said.
Work is currently underway in the positioning area “to prepare both missiles and place them in the silo, check the operation of the regiment’s protected command post and carry out other measures,” the source added.
Can the US defend itself against Avangard? The answer is – no at this time.
As it stands, U.S. military experts offer a grim assessment of America’s ability to intercept such a missile: “We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” said US Air Force General John E. Hyten, the Commander of US Strategic Command. It should be noted that, for a weapon with potential capabilities as devastating as the nuclear-capable Avangard system, even a relatively optimistic interception rate of, say, 50% still would pose an unacceptable risk.
Russia’s focus on advanced, nuclear-capable hypersonic weapons with purported first-strike capability like Avangard reflects a particular-kind of strategic thinking: researching, developing, and manufacturing a few un-interceptable nuclear warheads that can be more cost-effective over the long term than trying to match NATO’s combined output of conventional strategic weapons.
At the same time, Tom Rogan made his analysis for Washington Examiner: “The Avangard system does allow Putin to send a message to the U.S. that he remains committed to resourcing a near-peer warfighting threat to America. In the event of war, the Russians could overwhelm U.S. defense systems… yet Avangard-type platforms do enable Russia and China (which is also actively developing its own hypersonic reentry vehicle system) to threaten the U.S. ”.
United States would have hypersonic weapons by 2022
The big problem for the US is that they have lagged behind with the development and testing of a hypersonic rocket. Russia is already introducing a Avangard missile on combat duty while the US is just beginning to work on the issue.
Just days ago, it became clear that the US company Lockheed Martin received nearly $ 1 billion for the development of a hypersonic rocket.
In June, the U.S.A. The Air Force conducted the first successful tests of a prototype AGM-183A (or ARRW) hypersonic missile. The missile was mounted on an external suspension of the B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber.
In November, General Arnold Bunch, the head of the US Air Force Logistics Command, said the United States would have hypersonic weapons by 2022.
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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect BGM`s editorial stance.