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Putin claims Russia will soon be ready to counter hypersonic weapons

An artist's sketch of an X-60A launch. (U.S. Air Force/Released)
July 05, 2020

Russia will be able to counter hypersonic weapons in the near future, Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month.

Putin also asserted that Russia remains ahead of the U.S. in developing new and advanced weapons. “It’s very likely that we will have means to combat hypersonic weapons by the time the world’s leading countries have such weapons,” Putin told Russia’s RIA news agency, as reported by The Washington Times.

Strategic-range cruise or ballistic missile strikes, as we know them, can be detected between 15 minutes to an hour before impact. Hypersonic weapons, on the other hand, can fly at speeds nearing five times the speed of sound, decreasing the detection time to just minutes. They have a flatter trajectory than other ballistic missiles, are more maneuverable and are much more difficult to shoot down. First strikes would be relatively unpredictable and more effective.

Specialists and military insiders have expressed concerns that the U.S. is losing in the hypersonic-weapons race against its main competitors, China and Russia, the Washington Times reported.

Late last year, China showed-off launchers for land-attack DF-17 and anti-ship DF-100 hypersonic missiles. Concurrently, Russia claimed to be deploying nuclear-capable hypersonic Kinzhal air-launched missiles and Avangard glide vehicles released by RS-28 intercontinental-range missiles, Forbes reported.

The Pentagon responded by lasering in on hypersonic development, particularly weapons capable of defending against hypersonic missiles should enemies deploy them. According to Forbes, between 2023 and 2028, the Pentagon plans to deploy hundreds of hypersonic weapons with the Air Force, Army and Navy.

While the Pentagon’s focus is on defensive hypersonic weapons, they acknowledge the now achievable objective of being able to “wipe out critical adversary strategic weapons and anti-access systems anywhere on the planet in just a few hours.”

“Unlike China and Russia, the United States is not currently developing hypersonic weapons for use with nuclear warhead. As a result, U.S. hypersonic weapons will likely require greater accuracy and will be more technically challenging,” a congressional report states.

In April, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia was “ready to discuss hypersonic missiles and other arms control issues with the United States as part of wider discussions about strategic stability.”

Lavrov’s desire for discussions over arms issues occurred almost a year after the United States pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, blaming Russian non-compliance for the withdrawal.

“We are open to talks about new promising developments, including hypersonic weapons in the context of, and I emphasize this especially, taking into account all aspects and factors that influence strategic stability, without exception,” Lavrov said.