Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile that can travel at 20 times the speed of sound has been deployed. He has further said that the missile that can travel at 20 times the speed of sound. If true it puts Russia ahead of other nations. BBC has reported that defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has confirmed that the hypersonic weapon system entered service on 27th December. He called it a "landmark event."

Avangard

Mr. Putin had indicated the development of the Avangard in his annual State of the Nation address last year.

As per the Russians, the weapon system is now developed and deployed. The weapon system was tested in December 2018. In the test, the missile was able to hit a target of 6000 km( 3700 miles) away in the Ural mountains.

The Avangard is a hypersonic missile system that is nuclear-tipped. It can carry a nuclear warhead of two megatons. It is generally to be mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile and launched. The weapon can travel at 20 times the speed of sound. With its high-speed, the missile can at the moment penetrate most available-anti-missile shields.

The NY Times has reported that the missile can fly at 27 times the speed of sound.

Invincible

This weapon system is touted to be invincible. The United States and China have also been developing similar systems. The Russian claim has not been verified by an independent source. The secrecy surrounding the project is mainly responsible for this state of affairs. Moscow's claim has not been verified.

The secrecy surrounding Russia's military projects led to the mysterious deaths of two scientists supposedly testing a new weapon test in Northern Siberia.

The Russian claim cannot, however, may have some truth. If true it would mean Russia has stolen a march over both the United States and China in the development of this hypersonic missile system.

The deployment of this weapon system, confirms President Putin's main focus is on modernizing Russian nuclear weaponry. It is also an indication, that Russia is once again becoming assertive and wishing to rival the superpower status of the United States.

Arms race

The arms race between the two nuclear powers is alive and kicking. The agreements negotiated earlier from the time of President Ronald Reagon are no longer operative. President Donald Trump who is facing impeachment in Congress has withdrawn the USA from most arms limitations agreement with Russia as he wants China also to sign new agreements. The only treaty that is alive is the new START agreement.

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This is due to expire in February 2021. The chances are it will lapse though Russia is willing to renew it. There is an urgent need to put a cap on the development of nuclear weapons but both Russia and the United States along with China are unable to bridge the gap of mistrust between them.

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