Avangard Hypersonic Glide Vehicle Claimed to Fly at “Mach 27”, Carries MIRVs (Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles).
Russian state news media and credible western news outlets such as the BBC World News are reporting that Russia has operationally deployed its new, “highly maneuverable”, ICBM-launched Avangard Hypersonic Glide Vehicle to an active military base somewhere in the Ural Mountains of western Russia.
The reports are significant since the Russian claims of maneuverability for the Avangard HGV may make interception of the missile system impossible with known anti-missile defense systems and countermeasures.
The Avangard is boosted into flight using an ICBM launch platform such as Russia’s SS-19 Stiletto (also known as the UR-100UTTkh). The Avangard HGV separates from its ICBM boost platform after reaching an apogee or maximum altitude of approximately 100 km. After separation from the launch ICBM platform the unpowered Avangard reenters the atmosphere at hypersonic speed. This flight profile is no different than existing ICBM deployed hypersonic weapons used by the U.S. and other nations. What is claimed to set the Avangard apart from existing reentry vehicles is its maneuverability. Russia claims the Avangard is as fast as an ICBM warhead on reentry but also as maneuverable as a low-speed cruise missile. It is this claim of maneuverability at hypersonic speeds that is alleged to make Avangard “impossible” to intercept by known anti-missile defense systems.
If claims of the Avangard’s maneuver capability are accurate, U.S. missile defense systems such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, that intercepts an incoming ballistic missile based on prediction of a constant trajectory, may be ineffective in intercepting the new reentry weapon.
The Avangard weapon has been in development for several years prior to this reported operational deployment. On Dec. 26, 2018, the Avangard was test launched using a UR-100UTTkh ICBM. The launch test originated from Dombarovsky missile base in the Ural Mountains. Russian state media said the test missile successfully struck a target at the Kura Missile Test Range on the Kamchatka Peninsula 3,700 miles away.
This animated demonstration video was originally released on Mar. 1, 2018, by Russian state media:
In a report by GlobalSecurity.org, Russian source Pavel Podvig was quoted from an October 29, 2018 statement that, “The first [operational Avangard] regiment will include two UR-100NUTTH/SS-19 missiles, each armed with a single boost-glide vehicle. Later the number of missiles in the regiment will be increased to six; a second regiment with six missiles is expected to be deployed by 2027.”
No images of the Avangard have been released and there are no open source explanations of how the reentry vehicle maneuvers at hypersonic speed once reentering or is back inside the atmosphere in its terminal attack phase. This is the phase of flight when most anti-missile systems engage an incoming target.