Russian president Vladimir Putin says his nation has grown new “Avant-garde” hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) that are equipped for going more than 20 times speedier than sound, ensuring Russia’s military equality with the United States.
“Faster than Mach 20, twenty times the speed of sound. I don’t think other countries will develop such a weapon in the coming years … we already have it,” Putin said during an annual televised phone-in with the Russian public on Thursday.
Mach is a unit for measuring speed, especially of an aircraft, in relation to the speed of sound, which is roughly 1,192 kilometers per hour. Hence, Mach 20 is used when the object travels with the speed of 23,040 kilometers per hour, which enables it, for instance, to cover the whole circumference of the Earth along the equator in about one hour and 44 minutes.
The Russian leader also said that the new “Avant-garde” missile is capable of changing direction and altitude, which makes it unstoppable. He, however, said that the missile was in production and that it would enter service next year.
Putin also touched upon some features of another hypersonic missile, which is already in service, saying, “The air-launched hypersonic system Dagger, it is a hypersonic missile that flies at 10 times the speed of sound.”
The Russian president further briefly commented on a laser weapons system, which is also already in service by the Russian army, and that a new, more powerful ballistic missile, called Sarmat, would be ready in 2020.
Sarmat, which was test-launched in March, has been touted to have virtually no range limit. It is able to carry massive payloads across the North or the South Pole to anywhere on the planet, and is planned to replace the Soviet-era Voevoda.
Putin portrayed the development of the new generation of advanced weapons as a natural reaction to US withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, signed between Moscow and Washington to limit the use of missile defense systems, which he said had guaranteed strategic parity.
He added that the US pull out of the ABM Treaty in 2002, which had been an attempt to advance its missile technology, “was an attempt to break that strategic parity.”
“But we are responding … our modern weapon systems … undoubtedly guarantee that parity,” Putin further said.