Russia Goes All-Out Hypersonic! After MiG-31 Armed Kinzhal, Kremlin Puts Avangard Complex In Action Mode

In the latest indication of how Russia is going full throttle in bolstering and readying its Strategic Missile Forces and boosting its hypersonic arsenal, a strategic missile unit in the Orenburg region has been equipped with the Avangard missile complex.

A statement published by the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) on October 20 noted that the Yasnenskymissile unit of the Strategic Missile Forces in the Orenburg region is being rearmed with the Avangard missile complex, Russian state agency RIA Novosti reported.

The ministry also published an elaborate video showing the process of the rearming. 

The description accompanying the video read:” In the Orenburg region, work continues on the re-equipment of the Yasnensky missile complex to the Avangard mine-based missile complex. An intercontinental ballistic missile is loaded into the mine launcher with the help of a transport and loading unit. The most complex technological operations last several hours.” 

The ministry further noted that the infrastructure in the Orenburg region is ready for the next missile regiment to enter combat duty. These are facilities for resting personnel, preparing for combat duties, and scheduling duty shifts. 

“The implementation of the measures planned for 2023 to rearm the Strategic Missile Forces to a missile system with a hypersonic unit will increase the combat capabilities of the strategic nuclear forces of our country,” the ministry added. The RuMoD believes the missile system with the hypersonic glide vehicle would boost the combat capabilities of the Russian Strategic Missile Force.

The Avangard is a hypersonic glide vehicle that assumed combat duty in December 2019. The second regiment of the Avangard went on combat duty at the Yasnenskoye missile formation during the Strategic Missile Forces in December 2022. The latest development comes at a time when Russia is intensifying its use of hypersonic weapons, a technology that is currently not available with the NATO alliance.

Taking full advantage of this novel technology, the RuMoD recently announced that it dispatched military jets armed with hypersonic missiles to patrol the airspace over the heavily contested Black Sea.

Making this one-of-a-kind announcement, the Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “This is not a threat…Based on my instructions, the Russian Aerospace Forces will begin patrols permanently in the neutral zone of airspace over the Black Sea, and the MiG-31 aircraft will be armed with Kinzhal systems,” Putin was quoted by state news agency Interfax.

The decision was in response to Ukraine’s frequent attacks on Crimea and the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Moreover, Putin emphasized that the Russian MiG-31 aircraft, equipped with Kinzhal missiles, “have a range of more than 1,000 km at a speed of Mach 9”. 

Kh-47M2 Kinzhal - Wikipedia
Kh-47M2 Kinzhal – Wikipedia

Notably, the Kinzhal hypersonic missiles were first fired into Ukraine in March last year and have since been used multiple times. While Ukraine has claimed the interception of these otherwise invincible missiles using the Patriot missile defense system, Russia continues to reject these claims.

Russia’s emphasis on increasing the use of hypersonic missiles also became evident as it started equipping the Kinzhal on its frontline Su-34 fighter bomber aircraft, as reported by EurAsian Times. As claimed by Russian authorities, the missile was fired at a target inside Ukraine, signaling that their use could now see an uptick.

Against that background, the arming of the Yasno missile unit of the Strategic Missile Forces with the lethal Avangard becomes all the more significant.

Russia’s Avangard On Combat Duty

As Moscow claims, the Avangard can move and outpace any missile defense while traveling at a hypersonic speed of Mach 27, or about 32,000 kilometers/hour. The system was publicly unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018 and has since been projected as the cornerstone of the country’s hypersonic capabilities.

The Avangard glide vehicle relies on reentry to reach high speeds because it lacks an onboard engine. It is claimed to be able to maneuver while in flight to avoid being intercepted dynamically. 

File Image: Avangard Missile

Earlier, when Avangard’s second regiment entered combat duty in December 2022, Russian military analyst Alexei Leonkov stated that it was hard to predict the Avangard’s flight path or create a missile fast enough to compete with it. He claimed thwarting Avangard would be an impossible task.

On November 18, the Russian Defense Ministry released a video showing how its Avangard hypersonic missile, which it claims is “impossible to intercept,” is loaded into the launch shaft. At the time, the MoD said that placing a rocket into the launcher was a skill. A loader removes the missile from the vehicle, guiding it into a vertical position before slowly descending it into the launch shaft.

The introduction of Avangard into the Strategic Missile Force is significant as it is a hypersonic glide vehicle that various ICBMs can fire. For instance, Russian Strategic Missile Forces Commander Sergei Karakaev had said that the newest Russian Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) could be deployed with several Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles. 

The induction is even more significant given that the RS-28 Sarmat is set to become the mainstay of Russia’s heavy silo-based missile in the future. Karakaev also mentioned last year that Russia is the only nation in the world now using this kind of weapon in warfare.