President Vladimir Putin has said Russia is the only country in the world that has hypersonic weapons.
Speaking at a meeting with top military officials, Mr Putin said that for the first time in history Russia has an edge in designing a new class of weapons, unlike in the past when it was catching up with the US.
The Russian leader noted that during Cold War times, the Soviet Union was behind the United States in designing the atomic bomb and building strategic bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
“Now we have a situation that is unique in modern history when they are trying to catch up to us,” he said. “Not a single country has hypersonic weapons, let alone hypersonic weapons of intercontinental range.”
He said the first unit equipped with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle was set to go on duty this month, while the air-launched Kinzhal hypersonic missiles have already entered service.
Mr Putin first mentioned the Avangard and the Kinzhal among other prospective weapons systems in his state-of-the-nation address in March 2018.
Mr Putin said then that the Avangard has an intercontinental range and can fly in the atmosphere at a speed 20 times the speed of sound.
He noted that the weapon’s ability to change both its course and its altitude en route to a target makes it immune to interception by the the enemy.
Speaking on Tuesday, he described the Avangard as a “weapon of the future, capable of penetrating both existing and prospective missile defence systems”.
The Kinzhal, which is carried by MiG-31 fighter jets, entered service with the Russian air force last year.
Mr Putin said that the missile flies 10 times faster than the speed of sound, has a range of more than 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) and can carry a nuclear or a conventional warhead.
The US and other countries have also worked on designing hypersonic weapons, but they have not yet entered service.
Mr Putin on Tuesday described a build-up of Nato’s forces near Russia’s western borders and the US withdrawal earlier this year from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty among top security threats.
He argued that Russia must have the best weapons in the world.
“It’s not a chess game where it’s OK to play to a draw,” he said. “Our technology must be better. We can achieve that in key areas and we will.”
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu reported on Tuesday that the military this year has received 143 warplanes and helicopters, 624 armoured vehicles, a submarine and eight surface warships.
He said that the modernisation of Russia’s arsenals will continue at the same rapid pace next year, with 22 intercontinental ballistic missiles, 106 new aircraft, 565 armoured vehicles, three submarines and 14 surface ships to enter duty.