During congressional testimony earlier this week, US Air Force General Terrence O’Shaughnessy specifically focused on the advanced Russian Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which he said travels at a reported 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometres) per hour — “fast enough to defeat current missile defences and capable of striking the homeland within 15 minutes of launch atop a ballistic missile”.
O’Shaughnessy, who is also commander of the US-Canadian North American Aerospace Command (NORAD), admitted that Russia’s conventional and nuclear missiles pose “the most significant threat” to the US.
These missiles can be launched with “significantly greater standoff ranges and accuracy than their predecessors, allowing them to strike North America from well outside NORAD radar coverage”, he said.
According to O’Shaughnessy, the long-range Russian missiles include “highly capable” anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles carried by the Russian bombers Tu-95 Bears and Tu-160s.
This weaponry is backed by new Severodvinsk-class submarines “armed with advanced land-attack cruise missiles”, he said, adding that the Severodvinsk vessels are “much quieter and more lethal than previous generations of Russian attack submarines”.
Presenting the Avangard missile during his Federation Assembly address last year, 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.