It is known that the first work on hypersonic topics in our country began a few decades ago. Experimental aircraft of various types were built and tested. The development of a new model designed for use in the Strategic Missile Forces, apparently, began no later than the end of the nineties.
In February, 2004, at the Baikonur test site, an intercontinental ballistic missile UR-100НТТТХ was launched. It soon became known that this MBR carried a new payload in the form of some kind of aircraft capable of developing hypersonic speed and maneuvering during flight. Foreign analysts came up with an assumption about the testing of a combat unit with the index 15Ü70.
Later, by the end of the decade, new designations began to appear in open sources, allegedly related to the hypersonic program. The entire design of the weapon was called “4202”, and the hypersonic aircraft was designated as 15Ü71 or simply U-71. Later similar designations were found in open official documents.
According to different sources, various enterprises of the rocket-space and defense industry participated in the work on the topic “4202”. The leading role was played by NPO Mashinostroyenia (Reutov). Since the end of the two thousand years, the participating enterprises have been upgrading their production capacities, possibly associated with a hypersonic program.
"4202" on trial
What kind of aircraft was tested in 2004 was unknown, but further events suggest that these were not tests within the framework of the 4202 project. Another similar news entered 2010. Then, domestic media reported testing of an ICBM with a fundamentally new combat unit. However, this time there were no details either, which did not allow us to speak of the existence of a hypersonic LA of a modern appearance.
It is believed that the first known test launch under the 4202 program took place at the end of 2011. Then the UR-100H UTTH rocket from the Baikonur test site sent its load to the Kura test site. The official aim of the shooting was to check the new combat equipment capable of overcoming the missile defense system. In September, 2013 could have another similar launch with similar goals. According to domestic and foreign media sources, in 2015-16. Two or three more tests of the “4202” / 15Ü71 / U-71 product took place.
During this period, interesting assumptions appeared in foreign sources regarding the origin of the new project. So, the opinion was expressed that the purpose of the 4202 program was initially to create a new combat unit for promising ICBMs, but later it was expanded. At the same time, the first versions of the direct connection of the U-71 project with promising ICBM RS-26 Rubezh and RS-28 Sarmat appeared.
It should be recalled that until last year, data on the domestic hypersonic program were fragmentary. There was only a limited number of official communications, and other information came from not always reliable sources or was the result of a study of the available information. As a result, the public was able to roughly understand the goals and objectives of the new project, the main advantages and disadvantages, etc., but the lack of more accurate information and basic characteristics imposed certain limitations.
It is now known that the new missile system is called Avangard, but in the past this name has caused some questions. For the first time such a name was sounded in the middle of 2011. The leadership of the Ministry of Defense spoke about the impending rearmament of the Strategic Missile Forces, and in this context a certain Avangard product was mentioned.
Later, in the media and on specialized resources, the version appeared, according to which Avangard and Rubezh projects have the most direct connection - to the extent that these codes denote the same development.
In 2011-17 On the Russian and foreign test sites, tests of the promising complex “Rubezh” / “Avangard” / “Avangard-Rubezh” took place. As reported, these were launches of a “conventional” ICBM with standard combat equipment. It is noteworthy that at that time there was no connection between Avangard and the 4202 program. However, flights along the “internal” highway Kapustin Yar - Sary-Shagan could hint at the presence of certain features that require concealment from foreign intelligence services.
As always, the lack of open information led to the most daring versions. Among other things, speculations were made about the testing of a fundamentally new combat unit or promising means of air defense breakthrough. An opinion was also expressed on testing hypersonic aircraft, but it was not particularly popular.
Surprise from the president
1 in March last year as part of his message to the Federal Assembly, President Vladimir Putin for the first time officially disclosed information on several promising weapons. Among these products was the Avangard missile system.
It turned out that this name carries a complex that includes an ICBM and a hypersonic planning combat unit. Such weapons have several advantages over conventional warheads and allow them to more effectively accomplish the same tasks. In fact, all the advantages are provided by the highest speed of flight: it complicates timely detection and makes it almost impossible to intercept.
Soon, from official sources, it became known that Avangard products would go into service together with UR-100N UTTH type carriers. In the future, promising ICBM RS-28 Sarmat will receive this role. The Frontier PC-26 was no longer remembered in the context of hypersonic weapons, because it was abandoned several years ago for reasons of economy.
At the end of 2018, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov revealed some of the details of the Avangard project. So, it turned out that four years earlier this complex was under threat of closure due to serious difficulties in its creation. However, the industry was given the opportunity to continue the program, and this led to well-known results.
December 26 held the next, the third test launch of the Avangard system. Characteristics have been confirmed, and this allows us to decide on the adoption of the complex for service. At the same time, the contract for the mass production of new weapons, as it turned out, was signed back in 2017, but was kept secret until a certain time.
Plans for the future
After last year’s speech by the President, official sources began to regularly publish various news on the Avangard project, and now the situation with the available information is much better than in the recent past. The timing of the future deployment of such systems, their operators, etc. are already known.
Already this year, the first Avangard complexes will take up combat duty in the 13 th missile of the Orenburg Red Banner Division, and in the future it will be possible to re-equip other units. In the near future, hypersonic warheads will work with the UR-100N UTTH missiles, and in the early twenties, a new version of the complex based on the Sarmat ICBM is expected.
Thus, one of the boldest and most ambitious projects of the last decades has been successfully completed. Fundamentally new weapons brought to mass production and should soon go to the troops. Due to the special characteristics and capabilities, a new weapon will be able to attack designated targets without fear of enemy air defense and missile defense. This will make Avangard a unique means of strategic deterrence or retaliation.
Despite the imminent start of operation, Avangard largely remains secret. The situation with the past stages of the project is no better, when it was called “4202”, 15Ü71 and U-71. It is possible that in the future, new information will be made available to the public about the development of these weapons, and the country will be able to learn all the details, understand the complexity of the work, and also deserve to evaluate the work of designers. However, while necessary to observe the necessary secrecy.