Russia Suspended Participation in START With the US, Due to Leadership in the Hypersonic Arms Race

NEW – March 2, 2023

At the end of his address to the Federal Assembly on February 21, 2023, Vladimir Putin announced the forced suspension of participation in the treaty between Russia and the United States on measures for further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms.

Formally, the reason for the suspension was declared the refusal of the United States to allow Russian experts to visit its nuclear facilities, which violates the terms of the treaty, as well as the development of nuclear strike capabilities by France and Great Britain, NATO members.

However, it is worth noting that such agreements are not just suspended. Russia suspended participation in the treaty because with the successful development of hypersonic military technologies, the START-3 treaty, signed on April 8, 2010 by the leaders of the United States and Russia, no longer satisfies our interests.

Most Western and Russian experts are inclined to conclude that START-3 is designed in such a way as to meet the interests of the United States as much as possible, relegating Russia’s interests to the background.

With the New Start Treaty (the Strategic Offensive Arms Reduction Treaty), the same thing is happening today as with the treaty on the limitation of missile defence systems, from which the United States unilaterally withdrew on December 13, 2001, putting Russia and the UN in front of the fact.

The US’ withdrawal from the treaty on the limitation of missile defence systems greatly changed the balance of nuclear deterrence in their favour due to the massive deployment of a multi-echelon missile defence system. In response, Russia stepped up work on hypersonic weapons in the same year.

Russia’s concerns about the deployment of the US missile defence system around our state borders have generally been ignored. According to experts, in 2015, the US global missile defence system was capable of eliminating up to 30% of Russia’s total nuclear potential, and this percentage only increased every year.

Even then, the entire world understood that the global dominance of the United States in the field of missile defence systems would lead to the unconditional surrender of any state, including nuclear powers.

First of all, Russia began to modernise its nuclear potential at an accelerated pace, bringing the level of modern weapons in the strategic nuclear forces, to date, to 91.3%. However, modernisation alone cannot fix the situation, so all this time work was being done on the creation and testing of hypersonic weapons systems in nuclear design.

According to the plan, the US missile defence system should be guaranteed to intercept ballistic nuclear blocks of intercontinental missiles by the beginning of 2035.

The deployed missile defense system of the NATO alliance can be leveled either by building up the nuclear arsenal, or by creating fundamentally new means of destruction.

Building up the nuclear potential entails huge costs for the introduction of complexes and for their further maintenance. It was decided to abandon this idea and concentrate forces on the modernisation of the nuclear triad.

It was decided to negate the American missile defence system with hypersonic technologies.

In the USSR and the USA, especially in the 1980s, hypersonic systems were intensively developed. Intermediate results were obtained, which in practice could not be applied in weapons systems.

The fundamental difference between nuclear ballistic blocks, which also fly at hypersonic speed, and hypersonic nuclear warheads is as follows: after detaching from the ICBM, nuclear blocks fly along a ballistic trajectory, without the possibility of manoeuvring, and hypersonic warheads manoeuvre throughout the entire flight stage, including the final trajectory.

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In the Soviet Union, they came closest to creating hypersonic nuclear weapons, and certain developments were implemented in the form of self-guided manoeuvring warheads of warheads, such as the 8F678 Mayak warhead as part of the R-36M, as well as the experimental 15F678 Mayak-1 warhead.

The collapse of the Soviet Union halted hypersound work in both Russia and the United States.

In the United States, work on hypersonic nuclear weapons resumed in 2003, after they became aware of plans for full-scale tests by Russia of a glider created on the technical basis of the USSR.

In February 2004, Russia actually tested in open space a prototype hypersonic glider, which was launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome.

It was this launch that predetermined the development of hypersonic shock technologies in Russia.

Then, for the first time, experimental means of manoeuvring were tested in atmospheric flight conditions, when the warhead warmed up to 1,000 degrees, creating a plasma cloud.

The whole difficulty of creating manoeuvring hypersonic warheads is that it is extremely difficult to do this in atmospheric flight conditions, when the device is flying at a speed 28 times the speed of sound (Mach 28). And this is not to mention the materials that must not only withstand such loads and temperatures, but also remain functional and manageable during the entire flight.

Why did the launch of the prototype in 2004 determine the development of hypersonic weapons in Russia? The fact is that then a speed exceeding 9 times the speed of sound was achieved, and this is already hypersonic speed, at which it is much more difficult to control the flight than at Mach 4-6 speeds, but controlled flight was partially achieved then.

The United States in 2010 and 2011 tested its prototype hypersonic combat controlled unit “Falcon HTV-2”, but both tests ended “prematurely” due to a failure of the control systems.

The third test was canceled, as US scientists considered that it would not bring any new results and would not solve any problems. The “Falcon HTV-2” project itself was stopped. It can be assumed that the reason for the cancellation was the fact that US specialists could not solve the technical problems of controlled hypersonic flight.

The secrecy of the Falcon HTV-2 project does not allow us to find out the true reasons for the cancellation of the program for developing warheads capable of controlled flight at speeds of Mach 20 or more.
The secrecy of the “Falcon HTV-2” project does not allow us to find out the true reasons for the cancellation of the program for developing warheads capable of controlled flight at speeds of Mach 20 or more.

Since 2011, the United States has started working on a less risky project – “Advanced Hypersonic Weapon”, developed in the interests of the US land and sea forces. The system is supposed to be able to hit targets with warheads in conventional (in the future, nuclear) equipment at ranges up to 6000 km, with a hypersonic speed of up to Mach 8.

As part of this program, a long range hypersonic weapon system was announced in the United States, and testing began in 2017 and continues to this day. However, as of 2022, the United States has not been able to implement the concept of controlled flight along the entire trajectory at high Mach numbers.

Snapshot from the conference "Hypersonics: Army, Navy Test Common Glide Body". Judging by the past tests of 2020-2022, the controlled flight of the C-HGB unit is possible only at speeds of up to Mach 5 (according to other estimates - up to Mach 8, the exact figures are classified) and at distances of no more than 2,800 km.
Snapshot from the conference “Hypersonics: Army, Navy Test Common Glide Body”. Judging by the past tests of 2020-2022, the controlled flight of the C-HGB unit is possible only at speeds of up to Mach 5 (according to other estimates – up to Mach 8, the exact figures are classified) and at distances of no more than 2,800 km.

Despite the fact that the United States is testing only individual components of the system, they want to put the complex into service either this year or next year. This looks very strange, given the absence of the rocket itself, since the hypersonic unit was not tested on a standard carrier, whose combat tests should begin only this year-2023.

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Meanwhile, Russia has been working intensively for 12 years to create a strategic guided warhead to replace standard ICBM nuclear warheads. The program was called “Avangard“.

In 2016, a successful test of a hypersonic glider was conducted – it accurately hit the target. The glider was controlled along the entire flight path, while developing a speed of Mach 28. The last flight test of “Avangard” took place on December 26, 2018. Back then the hypersonic unit confirmed invulnerability to air defence and missile defence systems.

Even back then, it was clear that Russian scientists had made a real breakthrough in hypersonic technologies.

After Vladimir Putin presented this complex in his address to the Federal Assembly on March 1, 2018, very few people believed in this fantasy.

Avangard and other advanced weapons systems presented were dubbed "Putin's Cartoons"by our liberals.

However, in compliance with the START-3 agreements, after the delivery of the first “Avangard” hypersonic complexes to combat duty in 2019, American specialists were allowed to join them, who went into a deep knockout from what they saw.

Since then, the United States has begun a real hunt for the secrets of Russia’s hypersonic weapons.

Here is just a public list of arrested persons who were related to hypersound:

  • On February 15, 2020, Aleksey Vorobyov, Associate Professor of the MAI Rocket Engines Department, was arrested;
  • Sergey Lykhmusa was arrested on August 13, 2020;
  • On October 14, 2020, Aleksey Valuyev was arrested, the case is classified as “Top Secret”;
  • On July 7, 2020, an adviser to the General director of Roscosmos, Ivan Safronov, was arrested;
  • On December 3, 2020, the scientist Anatoly Gubanov was arrested, who, according to Western media, gave France (one of the NATO countries) secret information on the development of a Russian hypersonic civil aircraft;
  • On April 13, 2021, MIPT Professor Valery Golubkin, who dealt with the problems of hypersonic technologies, author of more than 120 scientific papers, was arrested;
  • On April 28, 2021, Sergey Kabanov was arrested for passing secret information about the military-industrial complex to the special service of one of the NATO countries.

Russia suspended the strategic agreement with the United States because it gained an indisputable advantage in hypersonic technology. Since 2018, no country, including the United States, has even come close to the level of Russia’s new strike potential.

If more than 20 years ago only the United States could withdraw from any strategic agreements at any time, today this right has been taken over by Russia.

Such a step on our part greatly excited the US leadership, as they are also not fools sitting there and understand everything perfectly. Hence the words of US Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Mallory Stewart that the US remains committed to working constructively with Russia to fully implement the new START treaty, and that Russia can easily confirm the baselessness of its claims under START 3 by sending inspectors to US nuclear facilities.

Oh, a miracle! The United States “suddenly” decided to allow our experts to visit its strategic nuclear facilities.

The fact is that, having stumbled on hypersonic technologies of intercontinental range, the United States has greatly lowered the bar in this type of weapons. More than 20 years of development have not produced an effective result that could be used as the basis for a new generation of strategic deterrence forces.

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The basis of the US nuclear triad is strategic nuclear submarines and the new generation of Columbia-class missile carriers will be armed with Trident D5LE missiles. They will be on combat duty until 2084. That is, in the United States, a new generation of strategic missile submarines will be armed with the missile system adopted in 1990.

 US ballistic missiles

Instead of developing a new missile system, the United States has already adopted programs to extend the service life of the Trident D5 SLBM. The only way to upgrade the complex is to develop a new nuclear warhead “W93” – which is supposed to replace the existing “W76” and “W88” warheads on submarines of the US Navy from 2034. There will be no hypersonic module, and the entire design of the “W93” will be based on the “W88”, but with improved safety features.

But why is this so? How can a missile adopted in 1990 be in service until 2084, that is, almost a century? The fact is that all modern missile systems are at the final stage of development, and a qualitative breakthrough is possible only with the use of the hypersonic version.

And to do this, it is necessary to lower the zone of separation and active targeting of warheads from near space to the stratosphere, where modern anti-missiles can no longer intercept such targets in principle.

For example, according to the calculations of military experts, it will take at least 50 SM-3 missiles of the US global missile defence system launched from different areas of the world ocean to intercept one “Avangard” or “Falcon HTV-2” glider.

But the “Avangard” is a real complex, and the “Falcon HTV-2” is a fantasy.

The Russian new-generation RS-28 “Sarmat” missile system can carry either 10 manoeuvring warheads with individual guidance with a capacity of 750 Kt each, or 3 “Avangard” gliders in a nuclear version with a capacity of 0.8 to 2 Mt, or in a kinetic version.

On August 6, 2022, a state contract was signed for the manufacture and supply of the “Sarmat” strategic missile system.

"Sarmat" is being tested in 2022. It is planned to put 50 such complexes on combat duty.
“Sarmat” being tested in 2022. It is planned to put 50 such complexes on combat duty.

Today, it is obvious that the United States is unable to create a strategic intercontinental hypersonic missile system within a reasonable time frame, and the old global missile defence system of the United States cannot fight promising hypersonic complexes of a local and strategic nature. And the United States is well aware of this.

After the inspection of the “Avangard” complex by American specialists back in 2019, the United States and Great Britain demanded a complete ban on the use of hypersonic weapons from the UN, and Russia was required to hand over the “Avangard”, “Kinzhal” and “Tsirkon” hypersonic systems to the UN.

For the first time in history, Russia has won the technological arms race against Western countries, and now they are already trying to catch up with us in this.

The United States once uncompromisingly withdrew from the ABM treaty, as it ceased to meet their interests. Today, Russia is doing the same thing. But we can’t be so careless about strategic agreements, so we only suspend participation in START-3, and we will continue the dialogue only now on our own terms.

On March 22, 2022, US President Joe Biden reassured American journalists who expressed concern about Russia's first-ever combat use of the Kinzhal hypersonic weapon system. "This is a weapon with the same warhead as any other missile launched. Its launch does not matter much, except that it is almost impossible to stop it, " the American president said.
On March 22, 2022, US President Joe Biden reassured American journalists who expressed concern about Russia’s first-ever combat use of the “Kinzhal” hypersonic weapon system. “This is a weapon with the same warhead as any other missile launched. Its launch does not matter much, except that it is almost impossible to stop it,” the American president said.


From 2013 to 2015, a series of unsuccessful tests of “Avangard” were carried out – it was not possible to solve the problem of stable control of the device and ensure its protection from ultra-high temperatures at speeds of more than Mach 20, which is why the government planned to close the project. However, the persistence of the developers convinced the country’s leadership to continue working. After a series of experiments, the designers managed to create heat-resistant materials and a reliable control system. That is, Russian developers faced the same problems as developers from the United States, but they successfully solved them.

From 2019 to 2022, 6 “Avangard” strategic complexes were put on combat duty and include the UR-100N ICBM with a launch range of 10,000 kilometres and the 15YU71 hypersonic guided warhead.

Aleksey Kochetov

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