Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin made headlines with his claim that the Russian military is the only force on the planet with fully operational hypersonic weapons.
Russia’s growing hypersonic arsenal already includes the Kinzhal (Dagger), which has a range of around 1,250 miles and can travel 10 times faster than the speed of sound (according to Russian claims). And as of last week, another Russian missile has entered service that, according to state officials, has a far greater range, can achieve far greater speeds and comes equipped with a nuclear warhead.
“The Avangard is invulnerable to intercept[ion] by any existing and prospective missile defense means of the potential adversary,” Putin was quoted saying about the Avangard system. According to Russian officials, this new missile travels at 27 times the speed of sound (greater than 15,000 miles per hour) and has intercontinental range. Last December, the Avangard missile reportedly hit a target some 3,700 miles away during testing.
The platform is launched like a traditional missile, but instead of following a conventional flight path, it enters the atmosphere at a far steeper angle, achieving incredible speeds before gliding, un-powered, into its target. At that speed, it wouldn’t be necessary to have a warhead to do massive amounts of damage — but the addition of a nuclear warhead makes the Avangard a truly dangerous weapon.