The head of Russia’s armed forces said Tuesday that it was imperative the country’s military develop ground-based cruise and hypersonic missiles by 2020 to counter rising threats from the U.S. and the West.
In particular, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said during a conference call, the military will be looking at developing a ground-based version of the sea-launched Kalibr missile within the next two years, a requirement ahead of creating a longer-range hypersonic missile system.
“The General Staff has submitted to the supreme commander-in-chief a list of measures, which he has approved. In 2019-2020, we need to develop the ground-based version of the sea-launched Kalibr system with the long-range cruise missile, which has proven its worth in Syria,” Shoigu said, according to TASS.
“Within the same time limits, we need to develop the ground-based system with the long-range hypersonic missile,” he added.
The development comes in response to the Trump administration’s decision to suspend the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty after the administration determined Russia has been cheating for years by developing missile systems with ranges that violate its terms, which Moscow has denied repeatedly.
“At the same time, they [the United States] are actively working on creating ground-based missiles with the range capability of over 500km (310 miles), which is outside the treaty-stipulated limitations. In this situation, the Russian president has set the task for the Defense Ministry to take tit-for-tat mirrored measures,” Shoigu said.
The defense minister noted further that “the use of sea-and air-borne missiles in their ground-based version will help considerably cut the time of manufacturing new missile weapons and the volume of their financing.”
“Besides, it is necessary to increase the firing range of ground-based missile systems being developed today,” he added.
Shoigu ordered Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko “to start the corresponding experimental design work within a short period of time within the appropriations allocated under the defense procurement plan for 2019 and for the planned period of 2020-2021 by re-distributing funds for the fulfillment of this work.”
Meanwhile, in a separate report by TASS, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that U.S. deployments of anti-missile systems in Japan was also a violation of the INF Treaty.
As for the INF Treaty and the Kuril Islands, there is a certain link here, since the placement of the US global missile shield launchers on Japan’s soil is among the problems that exist in our relationship with our Japanese neighbors in the sphere of security,” Lavrov told an audience in a speech at the Russian-Tajik Slavic University.
“These launchers are similar to the systems that have already been deployed by the Americans in Romania and will be deployed in Poland, the so-called Mk-41 launcher,” Lavrov said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin alluded to the development of a hypersonic missile during a State of the State address about a year ago.
Since then, the Russian military has conducted successful tests of a hypersonic system including one in December, which could be ready for deployment by 2022.
The latest test of the device, which is known as dubbed “Tsirkon,” was conducted Dec. 10. The device achieved a top speed of Mach 8, or eight times the speed of sound — two miles per second.
“What we are seeing with this particular weapon is that the Russians designed it to have a dual-purpose capability, meaning, it can be used against a target on land as well as a vessel at sea,” one source told CNBC. “Last week’s successful test showed that the Russians were able to achieve sustained flight, a feat that is crucial in the development of hypersonic weapons.”
The U.S. and China are also developing hypersonic missiles, considered game changers by defense experts, though the United States is playing catch-up.
U.S. defense officials have said that no American anti-missile system is currently capable of interdicting a hypersonic missile. But that would also mean that, should the U.S. develop and field a successful hypersonic missile, adversaries likely would also not have the ability to defend against it.
That said, The National Interest reported that the U.S. is already working on hypersonic missile defense — using hypersonics.
“Proposers may also assume a range of velocities above Mach 5 and a range of altitudes up to 50 kilometers [31 miles]. Solutions could have applicability to small interceptors, such as projectiles shorter than one meter [3.2 feet or larger interceptors, such as missiles over 5 meters [16.4 feet] long,” says a research proposal published by the Missile Defense Agency.