Russia is preparing to deploy a new hypersonic missile that its dictator, President Vladimir Putin, claims can travel 20 times faster than the speed of sound.
“From next year, 2019, Russia’s armed forces will get the new intercontinental strategic system Avangard … It’s a big moment in the life of the armed forces and in the life of the country. Russia has obtained a new type of strategic weapon”, Putin said at a Russian government meeting after he saw a demonstrative launch of the weapon, which he termed a “complete success”, according to Reuters.
The new Russian weapon is called the Avangard. It could be the first known, deployed hypersonic missile in any country’s stockpile and is expected to be able to actually travel at a speed at or above Mach 5–more than 5 times the speed of sound, or more than a mile per second.
Putin’s announcement has set off alarm bells in Washington: America has no known system that could defend against a hypersonic weapon.
Another nation employing the technology for military purposes: China, which is embroiled in a bitter trade war with the U.S. amid declining relations.
“The U.S., Russia and China are ahead of other nations in developing hypersonic weapons,” Richard Speier, who works for global think tank Rand, told CNBC.
“We don’t currently have effective defenses against hypersonic weapons because of the way they fly, i.e., they’re maneuverable and fly at an altitude our current defense systems are not designed to operate at,” he said. “Our whole defensive system is based on the assumption that you’re gonna intercept a ballistic object.”
America’s relations with Russia have worsened amid accusations that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in order to help elect President Trump. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is conducting an investigation into it that has stretched to nearly two years.
According to military experts, America needs to invest in new systems to defend against hypersonic missiles, including space-based missile-detecting sensors–and fast to keep pace with foreign adversaries.
However, America is still considered the leader in the technology.
Meanwhile, Trump said America should prepare to take its defenses into space as technology involves. Ironically, in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan was the first POTUS to emphasize space defense with the SDI (Space Defense Initiative) program that was never funded.