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Russia's New Avangard Hypersonic Nuke Missile Prompts Panic in US – German Media

© Photo : Ministry of Defence of the Russian FederationИзображение российского ракетного комплекса стратегического назначения с гиперзвуковым планирующим крылатым блоком
Изображение российского ракетного комплекса стратегического назначения с гиперзвуковым планирующим крылатым блоком - Sputnik International
On 26 December, the Kremlin reported that the Russian Defence Ministry had test-launched the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which flies 27 times faster than the speed of sound and which can carry megaton-class nuclear weapons. The US military has nothing to set against the new missile, the respected daily Die Welt stated.

The successfully launched hypersonic glide vehicle Avangard, dubbed a "New Year's present to the nation" by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has alarmed military and defence experts in the US and Europe, according to the German outlet.

On 26 December, the weapon was launched from a missile base in the southern Ural Mountains and successfully hit a practice target on Kamchatka, 6,000 kilometres (3,700 miles) away.

Die Welt points out that it has long been known to the West that the Russians have been developing and testing hypersonic weapons (the work on the Avangard began after 2002 when the US withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and began developing defences against ballistic missiles).

Although the glider, able to carry megaton-class nuclear weapon, was presented along with SARMAT missile system tests, super-fast drone torpedoes, cruise missiles with nuclear power plants, the air missile system “Kinzhal” as well as laser and hyper-sonic weapons as one of the newest additions to the Russian arms complex in March, the newspaper claims it to be proof of sabre-rattling by the great powers in the wake of US President Donald Trump announcing his country's withdrawal from the 1987 INF Treaty in October.

READ MORE: Moscow Will Take Steps to Boost Security When US Leaves INF Treaty — Putin

What makes Avangard unique is its manoeuverability as the vehicle constantly changes its course and altitude while it flies through the atmosphere, zigzagging on its path to its target, making it impossible to predict the weapon's location, as former Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov revealed.
This characteristic ensures that the target this hypersonic missile is actually heading to remains virtually secret, according to the US think tank Rand Corporation.

"We have no defence that could prevent the use of such a weapon against us", said John Hyten, the head of the Strategic Command of the United States to the US Senate Armed Forces Committee in late March.

According to Die Welt, current US radars cannot yet locate such a missile over sufficient distances.

"You have to cover thousands of miles, not hundreds”, chief engineer of the Pentagon and ex-chief of NASA Michael Griffin told an expert panel shortly before the test launch, pointing out at the curvature of the globe, limiting the coverage of radars, taking the vastness of the western Pacific Ocean and the lack of islands for radar.

"There are not many places where radars can be parked. And if you find them, they'll probably become targets", Griffin said.

According to the outlet, the US would probably have to install a network of reconnaissance sensors in space to handle this problem. Griffin also pointed out that not only Russia, but also China is working intensively on hypersonic weapons, surpassing the US.

"China tested more hypersonic weapons last year than we did in a decade. We have to change that", he stated.

Pressed with these developments, the Pentagon research agency Darpa published an urgent call under the slogan "Glide Breaker Programme" to the industry on 6 November to come up with suggestions how a defence system for hyper-sonic weapon gliders in the upper air layers would look like. However, Die Welt points out that the details remain secret.

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