Russia claims to have successfully tested the strategic intercontinental hypersonic Avangard missile system, a highly manoeuvrable gliding nuclear or conventional warhead. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday that Avangard, which is reportedly capable of flying at a speed of Mach 20, was launched and tested on his instruction.
"On my instructions, the industrial enterprises and the Defence Ministry have prepared for and carried out the final test of this system. The test was completely successful, all technical parameters were verified. 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," Russian news agency Itar TASS quoted Putin as saying during a meeting of government members.
Russia has been on an overdrive to build hypersonic weapons in the last few years and Wednesday's test comes just a days after United States of America President Donald Trump announced plans to pull out of the Cold War-era nuclear weapons pact - the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).
Russian Deputy Defence Minister Yuri Borisov had said in March 2018 that the deal to produce the Avangard hypersonic missile system had been signed.
Itar TASS reported that the Avangard intercontinental ballistic missile system has been codenamed 15Yu71. The Avangard is unlike a traditional intercontinental ballistic missile as the manoeuvering glider warhead is built to fly at an altitude of several dozen kilometres in the dense layers of the atmosphere which allows it to bypass anti-missile defence systems.
Although the exact specifications of Avangard are not known, Russia media has reported that the glider vehicle is about 5.4 metres long, can fly at a speed exceeding Mach 20 and is capable to carrying either a nuclear (from 150 kilotonnes to 1 megatonne) or conventional warhead.
Russia Strategic Missile Forces Commander Colonel General Sergei Karakaev has claimed that Avangard is made using composite materials, to resist aerodynamic heating of several thousand degrees and protects it from laser irradiation.
Putin had during his State of the Nation Address to the Russian Federal Assembly on March 1, 2018, had said that "the vehicle approaches the target like a fireball" while "being reliably guided.