Russia launched serial production of Avangard hypersonic missile

Russia launched serial production of invulnerable aero-ballistic hypersonic Avangard missiles, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his State of the Nation Address. The new weapon can fly in the dense layers of the atmosphere to intercontinental distances. 


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A rendering of Russia's future Avangard hypersonic missile
(Credit: Youtube/Russian Ministry of Defense)

Its hypersonic speed exceeds Mach over 20 times. The missile was previously known as item 4202. Experts believe Russian designers are a lot ahead of American counterparts who so far created only prototypes of the weapon, the Izvestia daily writes.

The president said the gliding warhead "deeply maneuvers laterally (for several thousand kilometers) and in altitude." It makes it invulnerable for air and missile defense. The new weapon is a fully-fledged hypersonic craft. "The use of new composite materials resolved the problem of a long guided flight of the gliding winged unit practically in plasma conditions. It approaches the target as a meteorite or a fireball. The surface temperature reaches 1600-2000 degrees Centigrade but the winged reentry vehicle is reliably controlled," Putin said.

Open sources said Avangard is to be mounted on prospective intercontinental ballistic missiles instead of traditional reentry vehicles. The unit is delivered to the necessary orbit by a pre-booster and begins to operate at an altitude of 100 km from the Earth. It glides to the target at a speed of 5-7 km/s. At the approach it can maneuver with the help of aerodynamic and gas fins.

The appearance of Avangard is still secret, but it is either a laconic wedged unit or a shuttle with small stabilizing wings installed in the head of the carrier. In size it is likely bigger than an ordinary reentry vehicle as item 4202 did not fit into a standard silo at the trials.

Russian media said silo-based UR-100NYTTKh missiles carry item 4202. It is a tested legendary liquid-fuel high-power rocket which is better fit for orbiting major payloads than solid-fuel Topol of Yars. The latest Sarmat RS-28 ICBM will become the carrier in future.

The optimal flight trajectory outside the dense layers of the atmosphere keeps maximum speed of the vehicle at target approach. Experts differ regarding Avangard warhead. It can be a small or medium nuclear charge and effective strike would be provided by high precision hit. However kinetic impact cannot be ruled out when the target is destroyed by the huge speed of the vehicle with a weight of nearly two tons.

The Soviet Union made the first attempt to create hypersonic reentry vehicles in mid-1980s. However the project failed for technical difficulties. In mid-1990s NPO Machinostroeniya resumed the project under the "item 4202" designation. Trials began in early 2000s and the first public appearance of the future Avangard took place in 2004.

At the time the Strategic Missile Forces held a large-scale exercise for the first time after the Soviet collapse. Chief-of-Staff Yuri Baluyevsky said it tested a unique spacecraft capable of flying at a hypersonic speed and maneuvering along the course and in altitude. It provides a possibility "to bypass missile defense," he said.

It is a long way from a prototype to serial production. Major import replacement program preceded item 4202 acceptance into service. It was necessary to replace Ukrainian-made system to control the flight, hypersonic maneuvering and aiming. On October 25, 2017 successful trials of fully Russian-made Avangard were held. The vehicle was launched from Dombarovsky area in Orenburg region and hit a target at Kura range in Kamchatka.

Expert Dmitry Kornev said Russian defense enterprises designed in the past years and launched serial production of truly unique weapons and Avangard is one of them. "The main advantage of the Russian hypersonic vehicle is that its high power allows complicated maneuvering. Thus, the vehicle escapes interceptor missiles and approaches the target from any direction and a broad range of altitudes," he said.

Russian engineers overtook the Americans and created a more advanced vehicle. "The Russian hypersonic flying craft has a clear advantage over American competitors designed by the Falcon project. Foreign media said so far the vehicles can develop hypersonic speed only in a straight flight," Kornev said.

The United States is developing hypersonic craft. The Falcon project and the concept of a rapid non-nuclear global strike produced two experimental craft. They differ in size and carriers. The first one is Hypersonic Test Vehicle. It has a smaller analogue - Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW). However, the vehicles are being tested at present and their serial production is far away, the Izvestia writes.

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