Along with China, Russia is the only country that has hypersonic strategic complexes. That’s what US military experts said at a Strategic Armed Forces Subcommittee hearing on US and its strategic competitors’ hypersonic programs.
At a hearing on Friday about the hypersonic programs of the US and its opponents as part of the US defense budget review for fiscal year 2024, a US intelligence expert said that both Russia and China had successfully developed and tested hypersonic weapons, and the US be superior. Indeed, as late as late January, the People’s Liberation Army of China – arguably as a subtle message to the United States – had made public the capabilities of its sophisticated YJ-21 hypersonic anti-ship missile. According to this, it reaches a speed of Mach 10, cannot be intercepted by any missile defense system in the world and can carry out deadly strikes against enemy ships.
Paul Freishtler, senior science and technology specialist at the US Defense Intelligence Agency, told the hearing that Russia has been developing this type of weapon for decades. Russia currently has three such systems:
Freistler was the first to name the airborne “Kinzhal” system presented in Russia in 2018, which has a speed of Mach 10 and a range of 1,200 miles (approx. 1,931 km). He also named the “Avangard” system, SS-19 Mod 4, which first achieved operational capability in 2019. According to Freistler, the projectiles from this system are the only strategic-range hypersonic glide missiles in service. The “Avangard” missiles could even fly at a speed of Mach 20 and had a range of 6,500 miles (approx. 10,461 km).
Exercise in the Atlantic: Russian frigate fires Zirkon hypersonic missile using computer simulation
As a third system, Freistler named the “Zirkon”, a ship-based system that was tested by submarines in the Russian Northern and Black Sea fleets in February last year. Only at the end of January 2023, the frigate “Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov”, operating in areas of the western Atlantic, conducted an exercise using hypersonic weapons.
According to Freistler, hypersonic missiles – which can also be equipped with nuclear weapons – pose a threat to the United States because they are able to evade existing sensors and defense systems.
This week, Russian forces used “high-precision, long-range air, sea and land weapons, including the Kinzhal hypersonic missile system” in a retaliatory strike that followed an attack on the Bryansk border region earlier in the month. This system has a range of up to 2,000 kilometers. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, a kinshah was used to destroy an ammunition depot in western Ukraine as early as March 2022.
more on the subject – The race for hypersonic weapons is a marathon, not a sprint: who will cross the finish line first?
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