The Avangard (Russian: Авангард; English: Vanguard; previously known as Objekt 4202, Yu-71 and Yu-74) is a Russian hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) that can be carried as a MIRV payload by the UR-100UTTKh, R-36M2 and RS-28 Sarmat heavy ICBMs. It can deliver both nuclear and conventional payloads.
|Type||Hypersonic glide vehicle|
|Place of origin||Russia|
|Used by||Strategic Rocket Forces|
|Designer||Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology|
|Manufacturer||Votkinsk Machine Building Plant|
|Mass||~2 tonnes (4,400 lb)|
|Blast yield||0.8–2 Mt|
|Maximum speed||Mach 20–27 (Claimed)|
|ICBM Topol M, YARS, R-36 M2, RS-28 and Bulava|
The Avangard is one of the six new Russian strategic weapons unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 1 March 2018.
According to Vladimir Putin, the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002 forced Russia to start developing hypersonic weapons: "We had to create these [hypersonic] weapons in response to the US deployment of a strategic missile defense system, which in the future would be capable of virtually neutralizing, zeroing out all our nuclear potential". In 2007, when asked about U.S. plans to deploy ballistic missile defenses in Europe, Putin mentioned that Russia was developing “strategic weapons systems of a completely different type that will fly at hypersonic speed and will be able to change trajectory both in terms of altitude and direction".
The Avangard (then called Yu-71 and Yu-74) was reportedly flight tested between February 2015 and June 2016 on board UR-100UTTKh ICBMs launched from Dombarovsky Air Base, Orenburg Oblast, when it reached a speed of 11,200 kilometres per hour (7,000 mph; 3,100 m/s) and successfully hit targets at the Kura Missile Test Range, Kamchatka Krai.
In October 2016, another flight test was carried out using a R-36M2 heavy ICBM launched from Dombarovsky Air Base, successfully hitting a target at the Kura Missile Test Range. This was reportedly the first fully successful test of the glide vehicle.
On 1 March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin in his presidential address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow announced that testing of the weapon is now complete and that it has entered serial production. This was further confirmed by the commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, Colonel General Sergei Karakayev .
The latest flight test occurred on 26 December 2018. Avangard carried by a UR-100UTTKh ICBM launched from Dombarovsky Air Base successfully hit a target at the Kura Missile Test Range. The Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Yury Borisov stated a day later that the glider flew at 27 times the speed of sound, "invulnerable to interception".
According to Russian Defense Ministry's press service/TASS, the Avangard missile system with the hypersonic glide-vehicle was demonstrated to the US inspection group in accordance with the New START treaty procedures on November 24–26, 2019.
On 27 December 2019, the first missile regiment armed with the Avangard HGV officially entered combat duty.
On 19 September 2020, Herbert Efremov, an Advisor for Science at the NPO Mashinostroyenia, was awarded Order of St. Andrew for his contributions to the Avangard development.
HGVs differ from traditional ballistic missiles by their ability to maneuver and operate at lower altitudes. The combination of maneuverability and high speed poses significant challenges for conventional missile defense. With the advantage again swinging toward attack, the defense industry is concerned that weapons of this type will reignite the kind of arms race that dominated the cold war era.
According to open-source analysis by Jane's, Avangard is a pure glide vehicle without an independent propulsion system. When approaching a target, the glider supposedly is capable of sharp high speed horizontal and vertical evasive maneuvers in flight, which Russian officials claim makes it "invulnerable to any missile defence system". The blast yield of a nuclear warhead carried by the Avangard is reportedly more than 2 megatons TNT.
The high speed of the Avangard likely gives it far better target-penetration characteristics than lighter subsonic cruise-missiles. The Avangard weighs about 2,000 kg and travels at Mach 20–27, giving it the equivalent of 21 tons of TNT in kinetic energy.
Jack Reed ... told me it might make sense to question the weapons' global impact or talk with Russia about the risks they create, but the priority in Washington right now is to get our versions built.