Russia claims new missile can overcome missile defenses

Russia says it conducted a successful test of a new missile that is meant to outwit the NATO antimissile shield and has a maximum range of 10,000 miles.

Within days of NATO's announcement that its European antimissile shield is now "provisionally operational," Russia has claimed to have tested a new type of intercontinental missile that can outwit the new missile defenses.

The new missile, which some Russian media said is named the "Avante-garde," was successfully fired on Wednesday from Plesetsk cosmodrome in northwestern Russia, and reportedly hit its target on the Kamchatka Peninsula, several thousand miles away, a few minutes later. The Russian Defense Ministry says the new weapon has a maximum range of about 10,000 miles and can carry a bigger payload than any previous Russian missile.

"This new intercontinental ballistic missile is intended to strengthen the capabilities of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, including its capabilities for overcoming antimissile defenses," Defense Ministry spokesman Vadim Koval told journalists.

"The missile was built with maximum use of existing components with new elements and technologies developed during the production of fifth-generation missile systems, in order to shorten its development time," he added.

Analysts say the new missile is probably a modification of the Topol-M, a modern, mobile ICBM that is well known in the West and is accounted for under the terms of the new START accord signed by US and Russian leaders two years ago. That treaty stipulates that both sides have the right to modernize their missile delivery systems as long as they remain under a ceiling of 1,550 deployed strategic warheads.

The new missile reportedly can boost into space faster than previous models thanks to a powerful new fuel, which would presumably enable it to outrun any ground-launched interceptors from NATO's European antimissile system.

The independent Interfax agency quoted a retired Russian missile commander, Gen. Viktor Yesin, as saying the new weapon was specifically designed as part of Russia's efforts to counter NATO's antimissile system, which is slated to become fully operational by 2018, as well as other regional shields being contemplated by the Pentagon.

"This is one of the technical means Russia’s political and military leadership has developed in response to America’s global system of missile defense," Yesin was quoted as saying.

Another potential Russian reaction is to deploy short range Iskander-M ground-to-ground missiles in the Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad and around Russia's periphery, in order to be able to strike quickly against US missile defense systems.

Earlier this month, Russia's top general, Nikolai Makarov, even threatened to launch a preemptive strike against NATO's antimissile shield if it appears to undermine Russia's strategic nuclear deterrent.

Russian press reports suggest that the new missile is not only faster in the boost-phase than all its predecessors, but that it may also be able to maneuver during its flight in order to baffle enemy radars and dodge interceptors.

Media reports also say that a previous attempt to test the new missile on Sept. 27 failed, when it suffered an undisclosed malfunction and crashed just 10 miles from its launch site.

Get daily or weekly updates from CSMonitor.com delivered to your inbox. Sign up today.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.