By Mario Ritter
28 December, 2018

Russia says it tested a new hypersonic glide vehicle this week. President Vladimir Putin observed the test. He declared that the vehicle cannot be stopped and will guarantee his country's security for many years.

Putin spoke of the successful test of the weapon Wednesday during a visit to the defense ministry in Moscow.

The following day, the U.S. Department of Defense reacted to the Russian announcement.

"While the United States has been the world leader in hypersonic system research for many decades, we did not choose to weaponize it," said a department official, Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Baldanza.

She added that the decision to make hypersonic weapons creates an imbalance that the department must deal with. She said the United States was considering "options" to answer the new weapons.

The hypersonic glide vehicle described by Putin is called the Avangard. It was tested on December 26 at the Dombarovskiy missile base in the southern Ural Mountains. Russian officials said the missile successfully hit a target in Kamchatka, about 6,000 kilometers away to the east.

The new weapon is called hypersonic because of its extremely high speed. It travels as fast as several times the speed of sound.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Chief of General Staff of Russia Valery Gerasimov oversee the test launch of the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle from the Defense Ministry's control room in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Chief of General Staff of Russia Valery Gerasimov oversee the test launch of the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle from the Defense Ministry's control room in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2018

Putin called the test an "excellent New Year's gift to the nation."

His announcement comes at a time when relations between Russia and the United States are tense. Conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, as well as reports of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections have tested relations. Some observers say ties between the two sides are at their worst since the period known as the Cold War.

A rocket lifts the Avangard to a great height. The missile then glides back to Earth at speeds many times faster than sound.

U.S. Defense officials were not surprised by the announcement of the test. In a speech to Russians on March 1, Putin described a group of new weapons that, he said, could make others "useless."

Among the weapons he spoke about were new nuclear weapons, including cruise missiles and underwater drones.

In his latest announcement, Putin said the Avangard is designed from composite materials. He also said it is able to resist temperatures of up to 2,000 degrees Celsius.

Putin said the Avangard would be ready by as early as 2019. It is not clear if it is able to carry a nuclear weapon.

Another hypersonic missile test reported

There were reports of another Russian hypersonic weapon test this month.

American broadcaster CNBC reported that Russia successfully tested a new anti-ship missile. The missile is said to travel eight times the speed of sound, or more than 9,800 kilometers an hour.

The missile is called Zircon, but little information about it is known. The magazine Popular Mechanics reported that the weapon can travel a distance of 300 kilometers and be launched from ships, which may include submarines.

Zircon may be similar to a hypersonic missile developed with India.

The U.S., Russia and China are all believed to have hypersonic weapons under development.

I'm Mario Ritter, Jr.

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Mario Ritter adapted this story for VOA Learning English from AP, Reuters, VOA News and other websites. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

decade –n. a period of 10 years

option –n. something that can be chosen, a possibility

glide –v. to fly without engine power

composite –adj. made of different parts or elements, especially in layers