Russia Deploys Its Avangard Hypersonic Glide Vehicle
On Oct. 12 CNBC reported that Russia had hit a snag in its development of its hypersonic weapon, because it was at the time unable to find a source for the critical carbon fiber components. The news agency stated that the Pentagon had doubts that the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) existed. Skepticism seems widespread. Some believe that Russia’s new super weapons are “virtual reality,” while others think they are “mostly hype.” In March, the National Interest cited Michael Kofman, a research scientist for the Center for Naval Analyses and a highly respected analyst, who offered his assurances that there was no chance Russia could field its hypervelocity boost-glide weapon by 2019. But history has shown that those who believed it to be just a bluff have been proven wrong.
According to recent Russian media reports, the Avangard hypersonic boost-glide system, one of the new super weapons that President Putin mentioned in his address to the Federal Assembly in March, went into production last summer and will be operational with the 13th Strategic Missile Forces division by the end of 2019. It will be deployed near Yasny, a town 502 kilometers (312 mi) southeast of Orenburg in the southern Urals, by the end of 2019.
Normally it takes two systems for a regiment to be combat ready by that time, but in this case that number will be increased to six. At least two regiments with six systems each are expected to be battle-ready by 2027. According to the state armaments program (GPV2027), twelve UR-100UTTKh (NATO: SS-19 Stiletto) missiles will be integrated into the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs). The deployment of the HGV might begin without additional flight tests. Eventually, the Sarmat RS-28 ICBM could be used to deliver the Avangard, potentially carrying a single, massive thermonuclear warhead with a yield exceeding two megatons.
The boost-glide weapon can fly at speeds of over Mach 20 or about 15,300 miles per hour (four miles per second). It could reach Washington in 15 minutes even if launched from Russia. There is no way to intercept it, as it moves in a cloud of plasma "like a meteorite." The weapon is distinctive for its ability to withstand extreme heat during the final phase of its trajectory thanks to its heat-resistant titanium casing. Its in-flight temperature reaches 1,600-2,000° Celsius.