STEVEN E. WHITE
On Wednesday, December 26, President Vladimir Putin stated that a new missile system would be deployed next year, in 2019, called Avangard. The missiles he spoke of are hyper-sonic, evasive to missile defense systems, and have nuclear-capability, giving Russia a new strategic weapon. The US has seemingly fallen behind in the arms race for hyper-sonic missiles.
Putin met with Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, and Chief of General Staff of Russia Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov, among others; as he visited the NDCC(National Defense Control Centre. “This test, which has just finished, ended with complete success,” Putin said in the meeting, “From next year, 2019, Russia’s armed forces will get the new intercontinental strategic system Avangard…. It’s a big moment in the life of the armed forces and in the life of the country. Russia has obtained a new type of strategic weapon.”
During the test launch, Putin observed from a remote room, as a missile launched from a location in south-west Russia and successfully hit a practice target located in eastern Russia, about 3,700 miles away. Putin told the meeting, after the test, that the weapon is “Invulnerable to intercept by any existing and prospective missile defense means of the potential adversary.”
In the early months of 2018, Putin unveiled a new arsenal of nuclear weapons during a state of the nation address, stating in the speech, “I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: All what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened…. You have failed to contain Russia.”
In March, this year, according to John Hyten, commander of US Strategic Command, “We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us.”
Thomas Karako, the Director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, stated to CNBC, “Unfortunately, we are kind of behind the curve in terms of our cruise missile defense capabilities,” Karako said. “This is why — I’m a broken record on this — this is why we have to open the aperture and look at the full spectrum of missile threat challenge. It’s not just about ballistic missiles anymore.”
Chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White added in, saying, “We are not surprised by these statements, and the American people should rest assured that we are fully prepared…. Our stance has never been, they know very well that it’s not about them, our missile defense has never been about them…. We need to ensure we have a credible nuclear deterrent and we are confident and are prepared to defend the nation no matter what.”
The US has tested hyper-sonic weapons in the past, though theirs are more about delivering conventional warheads, not nuclear ones. The deliverance of such conventional warheads require more precise targeting and are a bit more tricky. China isn’t far behind, if at all, as they tested a hyper-sonic nuclear missile of their own, in August.