Russia is struggling to manufacture a large number of new hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV) — the Avangard (Vanguard in English) hypersonic boost-glide warhead — due to a lack of critical carbon fiber components needed for production of the weapon, according to U.S. media reports.
“It’s expected that they will make no more than 60 of these hypersonic weapons because it’s just proving to be too expensive to develop,” a U.S. government source was quoted by CNBC as saying in a July 1 report.
In response to the report, the office of Russian deputy prime minister, Yuri Borisov, issued a statement that the production and delivery of the Avangard warhead are proceeding according to schedule.
“The production and the delivery of Avangard systems with the boost glide vehicle are proceeding according to the schedule and without any delays,” the vice premier’s office said in a statement published by TASS news agency on July 2. The Avangard is also still slated to achieve initial operating capability by 2020.
In December 2018, Russia test launched a liquid-fueled intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM) carrying the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle (Project 4202). The test deemed a success. A previous test launch of the Avangard HGV, carried out in October 2017, ended in failure.
In March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that the Avangard HGV, codenamed Yu-71, had already entered serial production. “Russia’s industry has begun to batch-produce this system. It is yet another type of strategic weapon at Russia’s disposal,” Putin said at the time.
The first regiment of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces to be armed with the Avangard is expected to be stood up this year, according to a Russian defense industry source in October 2018.
“The Avangard (Project 4202) regiment will be armed with the UR-100NUTTkH (NATO reporting name: SS-19 Stiletto) [ICBM] with each ICBM armed with one hypersonic boost-glide warhead,” I wrote at the time. The HGV can reportedly be integrated as a multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV). As I explained:
The [13th] regiment, part of the Dombarovskiy (Red Banner) missile division based in the Orenburg region in the south Urals, will be armed with two SS-19 ICBMs. This number will be increased to eventual six SS-19s. A second regiment also consisting of six SS-19s fitted with the Avangard HGV will be stood up by 2027, according to the source.
Russia currently possesses around 30 SS-19s with an unknown number in active service (a source cites 10 to 20).
Notably, according to the source, the deployment of the Avangard HGV may begin without additional flight tests of the vehicle.
The Avangard is designed to maneuver in the upper atmosphere at speeds in excess of Mach 5. It has a claimed engagement speed of Mach 27. According to the Russian president, the Avangard has been primarily developed in response to advances in U.S. ballistic missile defenses.