Moscow knows other nations are trying to design their own hypersonic weapons – but by the time they are acquired, the Russian military will have developed systems to shield the country from them, President Vladimir Putin has said.
The US and China in particular have their own projects to build missiles capable of travelling several times faster than the speed of sound. As reported by The Independent, the Pentagon was eventually forced to comment about its development of hypersonic weapons after Donald Trump bragged about the existence of a new “super duper missile”.
Mr Trump’s comments came during a presentation at the White House last month during which Defence Department officials presented the US president with the Space Force flag.
“We’re building right now, incredible military equipment, at a level that nobody’s ever seen before, we have no choice we have to do it, with the adversaries we have out there.
We have, I call it the ‘super duper missile’, and I heard the other night 17 times faster that what they have right now. Then you take the fastest missile we have right now. You heard Russia has five times, and China is working on five or six times, we have one 17 times, and it’s just gotten the go-ahead.”
The Department of Defence initially declined to comment, referring enquiries to the White House, which in turn referred reporters back to the Pentagon.
After some delay, Jonathan Rath Hoffman, the Pentagon’s chief spokesperson, tweeted: “The Department of Defense is working on developing a range of hypersonic missiles to counter our adversaries.”
The US has been pursuing the development of hypersonic weapons for years. According to CNBC, the Defence Department has almost a dozen programmes tasked with developing and defending against the new breed of weapons, which travel at five times the speed of sound or more.
South Front has recently analysed the increased emphasis on development of hypersonic missiles in the US (LINK).
Notwithstanding Trump’s claims and the Pentagon’s subsequent comments, Russia appears to be the first nation in the world to have actually deployed a similar-class weapon – the Avangard glide vehicle – into service. Other munitions, like the Kinzhal (dagger) cruise missile and the Zircon anti-ship missile, are undergoing trials or said to be in the works now.
Putin has stated before that the US is playing catch-up with Russia for the first time in history. He believes that obtaining hypersonic weapons was crucial to maintaining overall parity with the US, which has repeatedly tried to tilt the strategic balance in its favour by, for example, deploying ballistic missile shields in Eastern Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. However, most of these facilities are much more vulnerable now given hypersonic systems can easily pierce any existing defences, President Putin said in March, adding, “it is essential not only for us, but also for global security.”
RAND Corporation has produced a short video describing hypersonic missiles, prospects for interception (very difficult) and implications for the geostrategic balance and geopolitical stability. (LINK)
Moreover, apart from its offensive capabilities, Russia has recently developed a radar station designed to track over a thousand fast-moving targets, including those that are hypersonic, the latest addition to the Protivnik (adversary) series of radar tracking systems. Putin believes the world’s most technologically advanced military powers will eventually succeed in developing the ultra-fast weaponry.
However, earlier today (Sunday 14 June) the President explained to Russia-1 TV that Russia won’t be caught off-guard once that happens. Having been the first country to successfully develop and deploy hypersonic weapons systems (as far as is known), the Russia also seems to be leading the field in terms of defending against them.
“I think that we can pleasantly surprise our partners with the fact that when they get these weapons, we will have the means of combating them, with a high degree of probability,” Putin predicted. (LINK)
The new radar system is a key component of Russia’s defensive capabilities. According to Rosoboronexport, the government agency in charge of weapons exports, the newest edition of the Protivnik series of radars “can simultaneously track at least 1,000 thousand objects” and distinguish between eight classes of missiles. The radar is mounted atop a KAMAZ truck. Its antenna is sensitive enough to detect targets flying at 8,000kph (nearly 5,000mph) and at a distance of up to 450km (280 miles). The radar is also highly mobile, meaning that its crew can move around quickly and avoid being tracked by the enemy.
The Russian armed forces have started using previous models of the Protivnik series of radars in recent years, complementing the fixed early warning facilities installed across the country.
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