Russia's rocket forces loaded an intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with the nuclear-capable “Avangard” hypersonic glide vehicle into a launch silo in southern Russia, according to a defense ministry TV channel broadcast on Thursday.
President Vladimir Putin announced the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle in 2018, saying it was a response to US development of a new generation of weapons and a US missile defense system that it could penetrate.
As it approaches its target, the Avangard glide vehicle detaches from the rocket and is able to maneuver sharply outside the trajectory of the rocket at hypersonic speeds of up to 27 times the speed of sound (about 21,000 miles per hour or 34,000 kilometers per hour).
The ‘Zvezda’ television channel owned by the Russian defense ministry showed a ballistic missile being transported to a launch silo, slowly raised into vertical position and then lowered into a shaft in the Orenburg region near Kazakhstan.
Russia installed its first Avangard-equipped missile in 2019 at the same Orenburg facility.
Russia and the United States, by far the biggest nuclear powers, have both expressed regret about the steady disintegration of arms-control treaties which sought to slow the Cold War arms race and reduce the risk of nuclear war.
But the United States, Russia and China are developing a range of new weapons systems, including hypersonic ones.
The United States casts China as its biggest competitor and Russia as its biggest nation-state threat, while US President Joe Biden argues that this century will be defined by an existential contest with between democracies and autocracies.
Russia says the post-Cold War dominance of the United States is crumbling and that Washington has for years sown chaos across the planet while ignoring the interests of other powers.