Russia’s new strategic weapon has rendered any missile defenses useless at a small fraction of their cost, officials said Thursday. The Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle flies 27 times faster than the speed of sound, making it impossible to intercept, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told Russian state television.
The new weapon “essentially makes missile defenses useless,” he said.
Borisov spoke a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin oversaw what he described as the conclusive successful test of the Avangard and hailed it as a reliable guarantee of Russia’s security for decades to come.
According to ABC News, a smiling Ivanov likened the weapon’s flight through the atmosphere to a pebble skipping off the surface of water. Ivanov, who now serves as Putin’s adviser, said the Avangard could be fitted to the Soviet-made UR-100UTTKh intercontinental ballistic missile, which is code-named SS-19 Stiletto by NATO.
He noted that Russia has a stockpile of several dozen such missiles, which are in a factory-mint condition and not filled with fuel, allowing them to serve for a long time to come. Ivanov added that they could be put in existing silos, sharply reducing the costs of Avangard’s deployment.
“The Avangard has cost hundreds of times less than what the U.S. has spent on its missile defense,” Ivanov said.
The Defense Ministry released footage from the test launch, in which a ballistic missile could be seen blasting from a silo in a cloud of smoke, but it hasn’t released any images of the vehicle itself.
He noted that Russia began to develop the Avangard after the 2002 U.S. withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and started to develop defenses against ballistic missiles.
Moscow feared that the U.S. missile shield could erode its nuclear deterrent, and Putin announced in 2004 that Russia was working on a new hypersonic weapon.
Ivanov recalled that when Russian officials warned their U.S. counterparts about the new weapon program at the time, American officials were openly skeptical about Russia’s ability to carry out its plan.