Avangard (hypersonic glide vehicle)
The Avangard (Russian: Авангард; English: Vanguard; previously known as Objekt 4202, Yu-71 and Yu-74) is a Russian hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) that can be carried as a MIRV payload by the UR-100UTTKh, R-36M2 and RS-28 Sarmat heavy ICBMs. It can deliver both nuclear and conventional payloads.
|Type||Hypersonic glide vehicle|
|Place of origin||Russian Federation|
|In service||27 December 2019|
|Used by||Strategic Missile Forces|
|Designer||Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology|
|Manufacturer||Votkinsk Machine Building Plant|
|Mass||~2 tonnes (4,400 lb)|
|Blast yield||0.8 - 2 Mt|
|Maximum speed||Mach 20-27|
|ICBM Topol M , YARS , R-36 M2 , RS-28 and Bulava|
The Avangard is one of the six new Russian strategic weapons unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 1 March 2018.
According to Vladimir Putin, the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002 forced Russia to start developing hypersonic weapons: "We had to create these [hypersonic] weapons in response to the US deployment of a strategic missile defense system, which in the future would be capable of virtually neutralizing, zeroing out all our nuclear potential". In 2007, when asked about U.S. plans to deploy ballistic missile defenses in Europe, Putin mentioned that Russia was developing “strategic weapons systems of a completely different type that will fly at hypersonic speed and will be able to change trajectory both in terms of altitude and direction".
The Avangard (then called Yu-71 and Yu-74) was reportedly flight tested between February 2015 and June 2016 on board UR-100UTTKh ICBMs launched from Dombarovsky Air Base, Orenburg Oblast, when it reached a speed of 11,200 kilometres per hour (7,000 mph; 3,100 m/s) and successfully hit targets at the Kura Missile Test Range, Kamchatka Krai.
In October 2016, another flight test was carried out using a R-36M2 heavy ICBM launched from Dombarovsky Air Base, successfully hitting a target at the Kura Missile Test Range. This was reportedly the first fully successful test of the glide vehicle.
On 1 March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin in his presidential address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow announced that testing of the weapon is now complete and that it has entered serial production. This was further confirmed by the commander of Russian Strategic Missile Forces, Colonel General Sergei Karakayev.
The latest flight test occurred on 26 December 2018. Avangard carried by a UR-100UTTKh ICBM launched from Dombarovsky Air Base successfully hit a target at the Kura Missile Test Range. The Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Yury Borisov stated a day later that the glider flew at 27 times the speed of sound, "invulnerable to interception".
According to Russian Defense Ministry's press service/TASS, the Avangard missile system with the hypersonic glide-vehicle was demonstrated to the US inspection group in accordance with the New START treaty procedures on November 24–26, 2019.
On 27 December 2019, the first missile regiment armed with the Avangard HGV officially entered combat duty.
HGVs differ from traditional ballistic missiles by their ability to maneuver and operate at lower altitudes. The combination of maneuverability and high speed poses significant challenges for conventional missile defense. With the advantage again swinging toward attack, the defense industry is concerned that weapons of this type will reignite the kind of arms race that dominated the cold war era.
According to open-source analysis by Jane's, Avangard is a pure glide vehicle without an independent propulsion system. When approaching a target, the glider is capable of sharp high speed horizontal and vertical evasive maneuvers in flight, which Russian officials claim makes it "invulnerable to any missile defence system". Arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis of the Institute of International Studies, he’s known as a popularizer of nonproliferation and strategic topics since 2004 via his blog site "Arms Control Wonk", expressed scepticism towards Avangard's ability to evade missile defences, stating that "gliding results in slower speeds than traditional re-entry". The blast yield of a nuclear warhead carried by the Avangard is reportedly more than 2 megatons TNT.
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- Avangard, CSIS Missile Threat, https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/avangard/
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- Smith, R. Jeffrey (19 June 2019). "Hypersonic Missiles Are Unstoppable. And They're Starting a New Global Arms Race". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 July 2020.
Jack Reed ... told me it might make sense to question the weapons' global impact or talk with Russia about the risks they create, but the priority in Washington right now is to get our versions built.
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- "Janes | Latest defence and security news". Janes.com.
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- Andrew Cockburn, "Like a Ball of Fire: Andrew Cockburn on hypersonic weaponry", London Review of Books, vol. 42, no. 5 (5 March 2020), pp. 31–32. "'Welcome to the world of strategic analysis, where we program weapons that don't work to meet threats that don't exist.' This was what Ivan Selin, a senior Pentagon official, used to tell subordinates in the Defence Department in the 1960s." (p. 31.) Cockburn recounts impracticable-weapons projects, including Russia's Avangard "hypersonic glide missile", Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" project, the US's 1951 nuclear-powered-bomber project, and the US's 1950s Dyna-Soar "boost-glide"-weapon project suggested by Walter Dornberger, a favorite of Hitler's who had overseen the V2 rocket program. "[T]he US and Russia have both taken Selin's axiom a step further: they mean to deploy a weapon that doesn't work against a threat that doesn't exist that was in turn developed to counter an equally non-existent threat." (p. 32.)