Russia’s rocket forces have loaded an intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with the nuclear-capable Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle into a launch silo in southern Russia, according to a Defence Ministry TV channel broadcast.
President Vladimir Putin announced the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle in 2018, saying it was a response to the development of a new generation of weapons by the United States.
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As it approaches its target, the Avangard detaches from the rocket and can manoeuvre sharply outside the trajectory of the rocket at hypersonic speeds of up to 27 times the speed of sound (about 21,000 miles per hour or 34,000 kilometres per hour).
The Zvezda television channel owned by the Russian Defence Ministry on Thursday showed a ballistic missile being transported to a launch silo, slowly raised into a vertical position and then lowered into a shaft in the Orenburg region near Kazakhstan.
Russia installed its first Avangard-equipped missile in 2019 at the same Orenburg facility.
Russia and the US, by far the world’s biggest nuclear powers, have both expressed regret about the steady disintegration of arms-control treaties which sought to slow the Cold War arms race and reduce the risk of nuclear war.
But they are also developing a range of new weapons systems, including hypersonic ones, as is China.
The US casts China as its biggest competitor and Russia as its biggest nation-state threat, while US President Joe Biden argues that this century will be defined by an existential contest between democracies and autocracies.
Russia says the US’s post-Cold War dominance is crumbling.