The Russians have been working on a new set of nuclear weapons. These have varied from the more traditional, but enormous SARMAT ICBM and the Borei
nuclear ballistic sub launching the Bulava SLBM. However, some of the more wild tech being developed is the Poseidon intercontinental nuclear
torpedo/UUV and the absolutely insane Burevestnik. That last having had a major accident in the White Sea this past year. However, there is
another nuclear weapon system that is about to have its initial operational capability declared, the hypersonic Avangard.
Avangard is a nuclear weapon launched by ballistic missile, but it is not a traditional ballistic warhead. Avangard is what is referred to as a
hypersonic boost-glide warhead. That is to say, it is boosted above the atmosphere and then dips down and the 'skips' its way across the
atmosphere to its target. The trajectory is flatter than a traditional ballistic missile and actually faster. What the exact speed of the Avangard
warheads is hasn't been disclosed, but it is far in excess of the minimum speed of Mach 5 to be considered hypersonic.
The boost-glide trajectory is extremely hard for current ballistic missile defenses to intercept. And that is the point. It is highly probable the
intent is for Avangard to be used to obliterate the missile defenses of the US and allow for more traditional ballistic missiles to be able to sail in
Russia has been testing its new weapons, especially Avangard. Russia is now comfortable enough they are putting the Avangard launchers online for
use. IE they are operational. However, they are what we Americans call IOC, or initial operational capability. That means they are minimally useful
and able to fulfill a limited mission. When they can do their entire mission, they will be declared as FOC or fully operational capable.
Since Avangard weapons are coming online, the Russians decided the Avangard warheads ought to be considered part of the NEW START nuclear disarmament
treaty. This means the weapons must be inspected to verify there are only so many warheads per launcher and the total number of nuclear weapons
allowed for the US and Russia. To that end, they allowed American inspectors[9,10] to examine the first two launchers that will be declared IOC next
It should be noted the US does not have a hypersonic weapon capability as yet. The soonest, iirc, any weapon will be ready will be 2023 with the US
Army's boost-glide missile battery IOC. However, it will not be nuclear in nature. This is also important so as to point out the Russians did NOT
build this weapon as a response to nuclear or hypersonic weapons being developed by the US: Bush and Obama both delayed any sort of weapon of that
sort as an effort to avoid a new arms race.
The new arms race was not caused by the US: these weapons take a LONG time to develop, 10+ years generally, so that would place Russia's start
somewhere around 2008/2009 at latest, if not earlier. Interestingly, that happens to coincide with the Russo-Georgian War though. That may be
coincidence, but Bush and everyone else in the world heavily criticized the Russians there. It might also stem from the fact the US largely ignored
Russia for 20 years after the cold war ended (that's a whole post that's OT for this forum though) and also because the US ABM capability neutered a
treasured concept for the Russians, escalating to deescalate. That and their fear of anything echoing SDI combined with all of the above may have
convinced the Russians they needed these various new nuclear weapons.
At any rate, the new world is here. The Russians are placing a nuclear armed hypersonic weapon into use. The US does not have an equivalent. This
is a first time this has been the case in 30 years. The US has lost the technological lead. Given the screwed up nature of the US development cycle
and procurement afterwards, it will not be the last either.