Russia Testing Hypersonic, Counter-Hypersonic Weapons

  • Avangard is in service with the Russian military.
  • Recently, the Kremlin announced development of the Anchor-RV.
  • The United States and China have their own weapons projects.

On Sunday, Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared in the Russian news program Vesti Nedelya on the channel Russia-1. The term “hypersonic weapons” has been a very popular topic. In March 2018, President Putin unveiled one of the six new Russian strategic weapons, the Avangard.

Russia-1 is a state-owned Russian television channel first aired on 22 March 1951 as Programme One in the Soviet Union. It was relaunched as RTR on the 13 May 1991, and is known today as Russia 1.

The most common unguided combat unit (BB) of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) could be considered a “hypersonic weapon.” Its speed may be slightly less than the 1st space speed (7.7 km/s), and hypersonic speed is considered to be more than Mach 5 (5 speeds of sound), which is 5 times less.

No one calls an ordinary rocket that, but controlled or maneuvering BB can already be called “hypersonic.” Thus, any missile that has a speed of higher than 5M would be considered hypersonic. In comparison to regular systems, the speed is the biggest advantage with hypersonic weapons.

The faster the munition flies, the more difficult it is to intercept and destroy it. For example, object air defense systems with hypersonic missiles can not cope— they will notice them, but too close to the target, and will not have time to intercept.

Avangard is already in service with the Russian military, However, at this time there are 6 missiles, and they are on the reduced duty.  Additionally, Sarmat is scheduled to start its testing this year, and should be on duty within two years.

Recently, Russia announced development of the ANCHAR-RV. It is supposed to be more compact. According to RIA News, Dagger is in production, and is utilized during exercises with MIG-31K fighters. Zircon should enter service in 2022.

So, what did Putin exactly mean about the counter-hypersonic weapons? First and foremost, defeating the hypersonic missiles would require advanced speed. The new possible weapons that will be assigned for the combat operations with these capabilities:

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.
  1. S-500: At this time, it is uncertain but quite plausible that S-500 will be able to successfully hit the missiles at the maximum speeds. The S-500 just completed testing, but the Kremlin has been very quiet about the results. Given the timing of the interview on Sunday, this is the only system that is the closest to such capabilities at this time. It is scheduled to be delivered and put to service by 2025.
  2. A-235: A system which is capable of intercepting Nudol. It is at the testing phase now and expected to be used to fight combat hypersonic units.
  3. Favorit-RM: This target is designed to simulate hypersonic missiles with a flight speed of up to 5-7, 5 thousand km/h (up to 7M). The target is not only very fast, but also very small-sized, unobtrusive and maneuverable, capable of simulating ballistic and quasi-ballistic (like the Iskander-M complex or its kindred “Dagger”) targets. Many news agencies in Russia have discussed Favorit-RM on the small scale.

The United States has its own Advanced Hypersonic Weapon Project. China has hypersonic weapons project, DF-ZF, as well. In 2018, the FSB was investigating a hypersonic weapons technology leak allegedly to China. There is no new information on the development of that investigation.

It is highly likely this information will stay classified, and the responsible parties could have been neutralized by the Kremlin. Advanced hypersonic weapons can change global conflicts, and makes them faster and more far reaching.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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