The Russian military has allowed U.S. officials to inspect its newest hypersonic nuclear missile, according to news reports of the visit. The inspection of Russia’s Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle was conducted as part of the New START bilateral nuclear arms control treaty, which came into force in 2011 and is set to expire in 2021. Russia’s Defense Ministry also held a demonstration of the Avangard platform for the visiting American group.
The Avangard system is a hypersonic glide vehicle designed to sit atop an intercontinental ballistic missile. The Defense Ministry said the Avangard is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound. At this speed, the weapon could circle the Earth in just over half an hour, creating an almost-immediate threat to nations across the globe. The Avangard is also loaded with advanced countermeasure systems that Russia says will render missile defense useless.
The hypersonic glider Avangard is one of a new arsenal of futuristic Russian weapons touted by President Vladimir Putin. The system will reportedly go into active service with the Red Banner Missile Division, which is based in the south Urals. The military says it intends to put the Avangard into full combat duty by the end of 2019.
The demonstration to the team of U.S. inspectors was part of transparency measures under the New START nuclear arms treaty with the U.S. The treaty caps the number of nuclear warheads and bombs at 1,550 for both the U.S. and Russia. The number of intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers used for nuclear missions has also been capped, at 700.
The U.S. military has also been developing hypersonic weapons, with the Pentagon planning to spend billions of dollars on these types of projects in the coming years. A hypersonic missile that can travel at 4,600mph is currently being developed by Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. Their weapon is different from others that came before it because of its 3D-printed engine.