Putin Oversees Hypersonic Missile Test Day After Trump Boasts Of Secret US Program

A day after President Trump's Wednesday Iran statements wherein he casually referenced  to the chagrin of the generals standing behind him (given it may have been classified) — that the Pentagon is advancing in its development of hypersonic weapons, Russia is busy testing some of its own hypersonic systems over the Black Sea. 

President Putin personally attended and oversaw military exercises near Crimea on Thursday, as Reuters reports, which crucially "included the launch of the hypersonic 'Kinzhal' missile, the TASS news agency reported".

Putin personally oversaw the drills on Thursday from the deck of the cruiser Marshal Ustinov. Image: Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Putin  watched from the the Russian cruiser Marshal Ustinov the extensive drills involving maneuvers and weapon tests by Russia's Black Sea and Northern Fleets. It reportedly involved over 40 aircraft, at least 30 ships and one submarine. 

Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, declared the drills and weapons tests a "success" — including surface ship- submarine-launched Kalibr missiles  after which Putin ordered the formal end of the exercises. 

Most notably, however, the following via TASS is what's raising eyebrows in the West:

During the drills, two Mig-31K fighters practiced target firing using the Kinzhal ballistic missile. 

Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

The missiles were fired against and successfully hit land targets, according to separate international reports. 

The Kinzhal is one of six new advanced weapons under Russian Aerospace Forces development touted as 'hypersonic', meaning it can reach space and speeds of over Mach 10, with a claimed range of 2000km when launched from a MiG-31 and some 3,000 km if carried by a long-ranged bomber.

Mig-31K fighter with hypersonic missile, image via TASS/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office

Though precise details of the program remain a closely guarded secret, it's widely believed that elements of the Russian program may be far outpacing that of the Pentagon.

For example, Forbes recently reported that the Russian Navy is expected to be the first to deploy hypersonic cruise missiles on submarines. 

The timing of Russia's Black Sea test of the Kinzhal nuclear-capable ballistic missile is interesting, again given Trump's Wednesday speech.

Black Sea drills via Russian Defense Ministry

"Our missiles are big, powerful, accurate, lethal, and fast," Trump said in the speech addressing Iran's ballistic missile 'response' to the killing of Gen. Qasem Soleimani. "Under construction are many hypersonic missiles."

"The fact that we have this great military and equipment, however, does not mean we have to use it. We do not want to use it. American strength, both military and economic, is the best deterrent," Trump continued.

But at a moment Russia continues to already be in 'testing' phase, though with some of those tests failing spectacularly and dangerously, it remains a mystery just how far along the US program is.