Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu reported to president Vladimir Putin on Friday that the country’s hypersonic Avangard missile has become operational.
The missile can carry two-megaton nuclear warheads at 27 times the speed of sound and is fitted with a glider vehicle that enables the outfit to sharply change course in midair, which the Kremlin claims makes the missile almost impossible to intercept. On December 18 Putin claimed during a press conference that Russia is the only country that possesses operational hypersonic missiles.
“We have a situation that is unique in modern history when they [the U.S.] are trying to catch up to us,” Putin said. “No country has hypersonic weapons, let alone hypersonic weapons of intercontinental range.”
“I congratulate you on this landmark event for the military and the entire nation,” Shoigu told Putin in a conference call on Friday. General Sergei Karakayev, Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces chief, said during the call that Avangard batteries were made operational in the Orenburg region of the Ural Mountains.
Putin publicly announced Russia’s development of hypersonic weapons in 2018. During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in March of that year, U.S. Air Force General John E. Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command, told Congress that hypersonic weapons posed a distinct challenge to American defenses.
“We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” Hyten said. The U.S. expects to possess hypersonic weapons capabilities at the earliest by 2023.
China announced on Friday that it had successfully completed a launch of its Long March 5 rocket into space. The rocket is designed to carry heavy payloads including satellites, and the successful launch brought China’s new Shijian-20 communications satellite into orbit. The satellite will facilitate quantum-encryption communication for the Chinese military and government.
China and Russia were joined by Iran on Friday for joint naval exercises off the coast of Oman.