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Russia's 'invincible' hypersonic weapon will be ready for war by 2020, US intelligence claims

  • The hypersonic glider Avangard could travel 20 times the speed of sound
  • The high-speed weapon launches atop an intercontinental ballistic missile
  • It then glides on top of Earth's atmosphere toward its designated target
  • The glider is so advanced that the US has no way to defend against it

Russia's hypersonic glide vehicle weapon that can strike anywhere in the world within minutes will be ready by 2020.

That's according to anonymous sources who claim they have access to US intelligence about the vehicle, dubbed Avangard.

Avangard, which the US is currently unable to defend against, can allegedly travel at 20 times the speed of sound.

Russia successfully tested Avangard twice in 2016, the sources claim.

A third test in October 2017 failed when the platform crashed seconds before hitting its target, they said.

But Moscow, which has been developing the weapon for three decades, remains on track to get ready for war in the next two years.

The news comes just months after Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed his expanding hypersonic arsenal was 'invincible.'

 

Russia's hypersonic weapon that can travel at five times the speed of sound will be ready by 2020. This image taken from footage provided by official website of Russian President: Kremlin.ru shows a computer simulation of the glider vehicle Avangard

Russia's hypersonic weapon that can travel at five times the speed of sound will be ready by 2020. This image taken from footage provided by official website of Russian President: Kremlin.ru shows a computer simulation of the glider vehicle Avangard

The Avangard glide vehicle is designed to sit atop of an intercontinental ballistic missile. 

Once launched, it uses aerodynamics to sail on top of the atmosphere.

It is capable of making sharp twists and turns on its way to targets, making it ‘absolutely invulnerable to any missile defence system’. 

Speaking to CNBC, the sources claim one intelligence report noted that during tests Avangard glide vehicles were mounted to Russian-made SS-19 intercontinental ballistic missiles. 

One of the trial gliders featured a mock warhead, though it is still unknown if the weapons will carry explosives when they enter service. 

The Russians are planning to conduct a fourth test sometime this summer. 

'These kinds of boost glide vehicles attack the gaps in our missile defence system,' Thomas Karako, director of the Missile Defence Project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, told CNBC. 

The vehicles are equipped with onboard countermeasure systems capable of dodging even the most advanced missile defence systems. This artist's impression shows how the glider could manoeuvre at high speed to bypass missile defences en route to its target

The vehicles are equipped with onboard countermeasure systems capable of dodging even the most advanced missile defence systems. This artist's impression shows how the glider could manoeuvre at high speed to bypass missile defences en route to its target

The news comes more than two months after Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed his expanding hypersonic arsenal was 'invincible' (file photo)

The news comes more than two months after Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed his expanding hypersonic arsenal was 'invincible' (file photo)

WHAT IS RUSSIA'S AVANGARD HYPERSONIC GLIDE VEHICLE?

Russia is developing a hypersonic weapon that can breach even the world's most advanced missile defence systems.

The Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle travels at 20 times the speed of sound and can hit targets anywhere in the world within half an hour.

The vehicle launches atop an intercontinental ballistic missile before sailing on top of the atmosphere toward its target.

It is loaded with advanced countermeasure systems that allow it to skirt around missile defence systems.

The gliders are also highly unpredictable thanks to their exceptional manoeuvrability, making them almost impossible to track.

Each weapon could be loaded with a nuclear warhead but experts say the sheer speed of the vehicles means they would do damage even without an explosive payload.

Putin described his hypersonic arsenal as 'invincible' during a state-of-the-nation address in March.

He claimed Avangard strikes 'like a meteorite, like a fireball' and was capable of reaching targets at 20 times the speed of sound.

At this speed the weapon could circle the Earth in just over half an hour. 

'There's no time like the present to modify our current missile defence posture,' Mr Karako added, saying it was 'unfortunate that we have let Russia come this far.'

Putin described his hypersonic arsenal as 'invincible' during a state-of-the-nation address in March.

He claimed the Avangard would fly to targets at a speed 20 times the speed of sound and strike 'like a meteorite, like a fireball.'

Standing in front of a large projection of computer generated missiles and simulated strikes on American soil, the former KGB agent said the hypersonic glider had already entered serial production. 

The hypersonic glide vehicle, dubbed Avangard, launches atop an intercontinental ballistic missile (IBM) before sailing on top of the atmosphere toward its target. Russia tested its latest IBM, the Sarmat missile, for the first time last year (pictured)

The hypersonic glide vehicle, dubbed Avangard, launches atop an intercontinental ballistic missile (IBM) before sailing on top of the atmosphere toward its target. Russia tested its latest IBM, the Sarmat missile, for the first time last year (pictured)

WHAT ARE HYPERSONIC MISSILES AND HOW DO THEY WORK?

Aircraft and missiles are said to be hypersonic once they exceed speeds of Mach 5 and above, or five times the speed of sound.

This occurs at 1,715 metres per second (3,836mph / 6,174kmh).

The latest class of hypersonic missiles would be smaller, guided and designed to carry conventional explosives for time-sensitive, rapid response in theatre operations. 

There are two kinds of approaches to solving the hypersonic challenge in missiles: 'scramjet' and 'boost glide.' 

The air-breathing scramjet relies on high speed for its power.

As it accelerates, more air and fuel is pushed into the engine, allowing it to accelerate even more – to hypersonic speeds.

The boost glide model rides a reentry vehicle to extremely high altitudes, where it skips across the Earth's upper atmosphere.

Traditional ballistic missiles already travel at hypersonic speeds.

Built to carry nuclear and conventional warheads, these weapons are capable of reaching outer space in the course of their flights, but they can't manoeuvre.

'I want to tell all those who have fuelled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country's development: You have failed to contain Russia,' Putin said.

America's top nuclear commander said US forces are unable to defend against a hypersonic weapon during a speech in March.

'We don't have any defence that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us,' Air Force General John Hyten, commander of US Strategic Command, told lawmakers at the Senate Armed Services Committee.

'Both Russia and China are aggressively pursuing hypersonic capabilities,' he said, adding that the US had 'watched them test those capabilities.'

ABOUT THE AUTHOR celebrityrave

Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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