Russia claimed on Friday that its new hypersonic weapon with an intercontinental range has finally become operational after years of tests. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin on Friday that the first missile unit equipped with the Avangard hypersonic vehicle—which is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound—has entered combat duty. Putin unveiled the weapon in his state-of-the-nation address in March 2018, saying that the way it makes sharp turns on the way to a target will make existing missile defenses useless. Earlier this week, Putin reiterated that Russia is the only country armed with hypersonic weapons, and said it was the first time in history that Russia has led the world in developing an entire new class of weapons. The Pentagon has been working on the development of its own hypersonic weapons, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper previously said that he believes “it’s probably a matter of a couple of years” before the U.S. can catch up with Russia.
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