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Russia commissions intercontinental hypersonic weapon

Russia reported on Friday that an intercontinental hypersonic weapon that it has been working on for years is now operational.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that the weapon had entered combat duty, according to The Associated Press.

Shoigu later congratulated top Russian military brass on the “landmark event for the military and the entire nation” during a conference call, according to the report.

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The missile is equipped with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which was first introduced by Putin in his state-of-the-nation address in March 2018.

During the speech, Putin cited the weapon system’s ability to mark tight maneuvers, saying “it heads to target like a meteorite, like a fireball.”

Development of the hypersonic weapon began after Putin claimed the U.S. efforts to develop a new missile defense system would handicap Russia’s nuclear deterrent.

According to the longtime Russian leader, Russia was the only country in the world with an operational hypersonic weapon.

The Avangard can reportedly fly 27 times faster than the speed of sound.

Russian media outlets have reported that the Avangard is expected to be installed onto the Soviet-built RS-18B intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In accordance with the New Start nuclear arms treaty with the U.S., Russian military officials showed the Avangard to U.S. inspectors last month, the AP reports. 

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in August that “it’s probably a matter of a couple of years” before the U.S. also has an operational hypersonic weapon.

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