Russia is not bluffing about the new missile capabilities that its President Vladimir Putin revealed on March 1, a top official has said. The announcement comes a day after Russia's Defence Ministry released a video of a test of a missile called the Kinzhal, or dagger.
Russia's Deputy Defence Minister Yuriy Borisov declared that Russia is in the testing phase of a number of missiles that would render most missile defence systems useless. "This is not a bluff, but a reality," he said to Russian defence news outlet Krasnaya Zvezda.
He was specifically referring to a hypersonic vehicle that is referred to either as Avangard or as Objekt 4202. It is being designed as a glide vehicle that can withstand the high levels of heat caused by re-entry into the earth's atmosphere. The system would likely be launched by the RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), referred to by NATO as the Satan 2, to the edge of the atmosphere, from where it will use a re-entry system called the boost-glide, or skip re-entry.
A hypersonic boost-glide system is different from a regular ICBM-launched warhead since it would allow a high-degree of manoeuvrability and lower detection, meaning it may not be intercepted by existing missile shield technologies.
"The practical tests have proved viability of the chosen concept. I'll tell you more - we already have a contract for serial production of the system," Borisov said, according to Russian government mouthpiece RT. He was also quoted as saying that the major stumbling block for the development of the Avangard system was the development of the heat shields that can withstand the 2000 degree Celsius heat that is generated at the surface of the vehicle on re-entry into the atmosphere.
Russia is no stranger to the kind of re-entry that the Avangard would have to go through. The skip re-entry has been used by both the US and Russia for the return of space shuttles. But the key difference is that while it is used to reduce the speed of re-entry for space shuttles, it serves a different purpose for warheads.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had said in a two-hour speech on March 1 that his country is on the cusp of inducting missile systems that would be 'invincible'. He had revealed six different weapons systems on this front, many of which sounded too futuristic to be true. The revelation had sparked off speculation over what the capabilities of these weapons would be and even whether or not they really could exist.