Although the US remains the country with the most comprehensive air defence system in the world, even this missile shield is unable to intercept Russia's Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, the Chinese news outlet Sina reports.
The vehicle’s characteristics, especially its strike speed and resistance to interception, “make the Avangard missile a more deterrent weapon than a nuclear bomb”, Sina claimed.
The news outlet added that by showcasing the Avangard, Russia is sending a message to the US that “the existing American air defences are useless when it comes to intercepting Russian missiles”.
The remarks came a few days after The Washington Post (WaPo) published excerpts of veteran American journalist Bob Woodward’s soon-to-be-released book on the Trump presidency, in which the reporter specifically cited POTUS as mentioning what he described as an “incredible” US nuclear weapons system.
“I have built a nuclear - a weapons system that nobody’s ever had in this country before [...]", Trump told Woodward, adding that the US has “stuff” Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping “have never heard about before”.
Even though Trump did not elaborate, some quickly suggested that POTUS was probably referring to the W76-2, a new low-yield nuclear warhead designed to fit on the US Navy’s Trident D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
The WaPo report followed Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov noting last week that it was Washington’s move to modernise low-yield nukes, not Russia’s actions, that is destabilising the global nuclear deterrent. Antonov was responding to US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Robert Soofer, who earlier declared that Russia was initiating an arms race in the sphere of non-strategic weapons.
Earlier in September, Soofer said that bipartisan support for the creation of the W76-2 remains “divided”, as he outlined the US’ Nuclear Deterrence Strategy, which “places a premium on ensuring the survivability of nuclear forces that can threaten the adversary”.
Avangard Missile Enters Service
In late 2019, Russian Strategic Missile Forces commander Col-Gen Sergei Karakaev confirmed that the first Avangard-armed missile regiment had been stationed at the Yasnensky missile compound in the Orenburg region, about 1,200 km southeast of Moscow.
Presenting the Avangard missile during his Federation Assembly address the year before, Putin said that the missile is capable of changing course mid-flight, thereby avoiding being tracked and intercepted.
He noted that the speed of the missile, which “flies like a meteorite or a fire ball”, was in excess of Mach 20 and that it is capable of penetrating any existing missile defence system.