A new hypersonic nuclear missile that Russia says it has deployed is fueling concerns of a new arms race with the U.S. as the clock ticks down on the expiry of the last treaty limiting the strategic arsenals of the two former Cold War foes.
Russia’s first regiment of Avangard missiles was commissioned in the Urals region of Orenberg, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Dec. 27, days after President Vladimir Putin boasted that the new weapon could penetrate any defensive shield.
“Not a single country possesses hypersonic weapons, let alone continental-range hypersonic weapons,” Putin told military chiefs. “They’re trying to catch up with us.”
The Russian leader unveiled the Avangard and five other new-generation weapons in his annual state-of-the-nation address in March 2018, saying it could travel at up to 20 times the speed of sound like a “meteorite” or a “fireball.”
The new weapon has gone into service amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of a landmark 1987 treaty banning deployment of short- and medium-range missiles, accusing Russia of being in breach of its terms. The Kremlin, which withdrew from the pact in response, denied the allegation.