Avangard changes everything: What Russia’s hypersonic warhead deployment means for the global arms race
Video released by the Russian defense ministry on Friday shows the hypersonic glider warheads being loaded onto silo-based missiles. For now, the Avangards will be mounted on the UR-100N (or SS-19 Stiletto, as NATO calls them) ballistic missiles, until the RS-28 Sarmat is ready to enter service.
Hypersonic weapons fly far faster than the speed of sound. Avangard is capable of reaching Mach 27 without losing control or disintegrating under heat and pressure. This means that the weapon can outmaneuver any defenses on its approach phase, rendering it “absolutely invulnerable to any air or missile defense system,” in the words of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” is how General John Hyten, then head of the US Strategic Command, put it to the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2018, shortly after Putin confirmed the existence of Avangard and several other weapons.
Russia is more conscious about its military spending, which is far lower than in the US – in both absolute and purchase power parity terms – yet a lot more of it goes on procurement of new weapons systems.