Avangard : Gliding At Mach 27!

Today, this article will focus on the most deadly hypersonic system of Russia. The Hypersonic Glide Vehicle(HGV) has been developed by the NPO Mashinostroyenia Corporation and has been furnished with a solid propellant scramjet engine.

Avangard system follows 30yrs of research into hypersonic vehicles that started during the Soviet era. But it witnessed exponential development because of a US decision.

According to an open-source analysis by Jane’s, Avangard is a pure glide vehicle without an independent propulsion system. The hypersonic vehicle relies on gravity and its aerodynamic features to maintain speed and altitude. Therefore, it is highly agile and unpredictable as it soars towards its target. Rendering defence systems inadequate to counter.

RT news

What Is Hypersonic Glide Vehicle?

Hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) are:

a. launched from existing missile systems

b. released from rocket boosters

c. capable to glide through the air toward target


  1. Mass: 2 tonnes
  2. Length: 5.4mtrs
  3. Range: over 6,000km
  4. Class: Hypersonic Glide Vehicle(HGV)

Features :

Trajectory of hypersonic glide vehicle vs conventional ICBM
  1. Avangard is a unique weapon system commonly called Boost Glide Hypersonic Weapon. When fitted with powerful missiles like ICBMs, it increases the kill probability and maneuverability of the missile system. Traditional ICBMs boost their nuclear warheads high into Low-Earth Orbit. From there it sends the warhead streaming down towards their target. The trajectory followed is ballistic in nature. Making it predictable and can be intercepted if caught by a missile defence system. But when fitted with Avangard, ICBM’s booster is used to reach an altitude which is about 1/3rd of the Low-Earth Orbit i.e about 62 miles/100km. Once at altitude, Avangard helps zoom down towards the target at speed of about Mach 27 or 20,716 miles/hr or 33339.17 km/hr.
  2. Avangard’s never reaches space, where ballistic missile defence systems are designed to shoot down incoming nuclear warheads. Therefore, it comes in under the ballistic missile shield, below its engagement range.
  3. By some reports, Avangard can maneuver at the speed of Mach 5 at the upper atmosphere as it comes crashing down towards the target. So even if the ballistic missile system “miraculously” detects it, it can maneuver its way out of any countermeasures. This makes it highly unpredictable, unlike traditional ICBMs without the Avangard system.
  4. Avangard is built out of composite materials. Because of which it can deal with extreme heat generated by friction while traveling through the atmosphere. By an estimate, the outer skin of the hypersonic system experiences up to 3,632 degrees Fahrenheit/2000 degrees Celsius.
  5. According to reports, Avangard carries a nuclear warhead rated at “more than 2 megatons TNT equivalent”. That’s the equivalent of 2,000 kilotons of TNT explosives. By comparison, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima(1945) was only 16 kilotons. Therefore, Avangard hasn’t been built to be an accurate or precision weapon device. Because with 2 megaton warhead, even if Avangard lands a few miles off the mark, it will probably still destroy the target. That is why Avangard has a high kill probability.
Detection by defence systems


On December 27, 2017 , 1st Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle aided weapons became operational.

Reused SS-19 boosters

The 1st regiment of Avangard-equipped missiles: The 13th Regiment of the Dombarovskiy, in southern Russia, also called the “RED BANNER” missile division achieved operational status. Its base is near Orenberg(south Urals), Russia. The regiment received 2 older UR-100 NUTTKH (NATO-SS-19 STILETTO) ICBMs refitted with one Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle each.

Russia’s Take

According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the U.S withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missiles treaty(ABM) in 2002 was the main cause. Because of which Russia expedited the system’s development. He delivered a report on the State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly, on March 1, 2018. President Putin told a board meeting of the Defense Ministry in late 2018 that Russia had launched serial production of Avangard hypersonic missile systems. Putin emphasized at the time that the Avangard, along with Sarmat missiles and Kinzhal and Peresvet missile systems, would boost the potential of the Army and the Navy to ensure Russia’s security for decades to come.

Who Else Has Hypersonic Capability?

Russia, China, India, and the United States lead in the development of hypersonic weapons applications. Russia and China focus on hypersonics to deliver nuclear payloads. While the United States has stated that it is pursuing hypersonics to deliver only conventional (kinetic, incendiary, explosive) payloads. India has conducted a successful test of HSTDV system. But we have yet to achieve long-range sustained hypersonic flight akin to that of our competitors. Australia, Israel, France, Japan, and Brazil have also begun to develop hypersonic weapons capabilities. Both as sole proprietors of unique technologies and as partners working in conjunction with allied states.

Eurasian Times, The Diplomat, RT news, ploughshare


A defence aspirant, preparing for the Indian Armed forces and on the path to discover more and more about India and the challenges it faces on her quest to better it's position in the world order.

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