Avangard Hypersonic Missile System

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    8th Jan, 2020

Context

Recently, Russia's first regiment of Avangard hypersonic missiles has been put into service sending shock waves around the world.

About

  • Avangard is a hypersonic glide vehicle developed by Russia. It’s designed to be carried as a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle(MIRV) payload by the UR-100UTTKh, RS-26 Rubezh and RS-28 Sarmat super-heavy ICBM.
  • Avangard can presumably reach speeds up to Mach 20 and can be used to deliver nuclear and conventional payloads.
  • It’s designed to sit atop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and, once launched, it uses aerodynamic forces to sail on top of the atmosphere.
  • Russia has successfully tested the missile at least twice and it is expected to enter service in late 2018 or early 2019.
  • During the annual state-of-the-nation in March 2018, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin unveiled the Avangard and described the Hypersonic Missile as one of the six next-generation weapons that are under development.
  • The initial research on hypersonic warheads started back in the mid-1980s at the time of the USSR or the Soviet Union which was ceased at the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Later around the mid-1990s, Russia started working back on the project under the name ‘Project 4202’. Since then, Russia has made around 14 reported tests of the Avangard Hypersonic Missile.  A Hypersonic Missile means that can travel at speed of above Mach 5 (Mach 5 speed is 5 times more than the speed of sound).

Strategic Implications

  • Avangard is a strategically valuable weapon for two main reasons, its maneuverability and its versatility.
  • The weapon is capable of performing sharp maneuvers on its way to targets making it absolutely invulnerable for any missile defense system.
  • It also boasts the ability to deploy countermeasures during flight allowing it to penetrate air and missile defenses virtually undetected.
  • As for its versatility, Avangard can be fitted with both nuclear and conventional payloads depending on a situation. Moreover, even without an explosive payload, the precision and speed of the weapon is believed to have enough force to obliterate smaller targets, such as vehicles or bases, making it an invaluable weapon in the Russian arsenal.

Conclusion

  • Avangard system could penetrate current and future missile defence systems
  • Not a single country possesses hypersonic weapons, let alone continental-range hypersonic weapons in the world. No doubt the US has its own hypersonic missile programme, as does China, which in 2014 said it had conducted a test flight of such as weapon.
  • The announcement that Avangard is operational heralds a new and dangerous era in the nuclear arms race.
  • Though Russia allowed US experts to inspect the Avangard under the rules of the 2010 New START treaty, an agreement that seeks to reduce the number of strategic nuclear missile launchers.
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