Russia's domestic intelligence agency, the FSB, conducted a raid of two hypersonic weapons laboratories on Friday after it was discovered that top secret files were leaked to Western intelligence, according to Russian newspaper Kommersant.
FSB operatives raided the employee quarters of the TSNIIMASH (the Central Research Institute of Machine Building) and the URSC (United Rocket and Space Corporation) - both of which are a part of Russian Space Agency Roscosmos and are involved in the development of the country's hypersonic weapons program.
Specifically targeted in the raid was Dmitry Paison, the head of the URSC's research facility whose office was separately searched as part of the raid.
A source familiar with the FSB investigation described the investigation as "unprecedented," while revealing to Kommersant that “it was established that the leak came from TSNIIMASH employees who were in touch with Paison.” The source added that the FSB won't go easy on the perpetrator.
“Many heads will roll, it won’t be limited to people being dismissed,” added the source. Following the raid, a Roscosmos spokesman confirmed that the searches took place, adding that the head of the corporation, Dmitry Rogozin, instructed “our security division to offer maximum support to the investigation.”
As we reported in May, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a conference with military officials that the country's new array of hypersonic missiles along with the latest in nuclear technology will secure the country’s security for many decades.
Speaking in Sochi, Putin said the brand-new weapon systems unveiled this year will significantly expand Russia’s military capabilities and “ensure a strategic balance for decades” with the United States.
Putin used his state-of-the-nation speech in March to deliver a stern warning to Washington that Moscow possesses hypersonic weapons that can render NATO’s U.S.-led missile defense system completely “useless.”
Underwater drones, hypersonic warheads, balls of fire, “menacing” ICBMs – the peak of Putin speech at the state-of-the-nation address in March. (Source: Tom Parfitt)
“Efforts to contain Russia have failed, face it,” Putin announced in a two-hour speech at his annual state of the nation address in Moscow, which included computer simulations of new weapons including hypersonic systems, intercontinental missiles, and underwater drones.
In May, CNBC validated Putin’s claim of a hypersonic weapon the U.S. is currently unable to defend against, which the report indicates will be ready for war by 2020, according to sources with vast knowledge of American intelligence reports, who added that Moscow successfully tested the hypersonic glide vehicle in 2016, which was configured to carry nuclear warheads. Sources said a third test was completed in October 2017 and resulted in a mishap seconds before obliterating its target.
The hypersonic glide vehicle, dubbed “Avangard” (also called ‘Objekt 4202′, Yu-71 and Yu-74), is fastened onto an intercontinental ballistic missile using scramjet engine technology. Once launched, the Avangard reaches speeds of Mach 20 with the capacity to carry both nuclear and conventional payloads.
Avangard video demonstration from Putin’s speech in March.
Sources said it is still unclear whether the hypersonic glide vehicle will carry explosives, due to the fact that Mach 20 capabilities alone can pack enough force to annihilate targets. In March, Putin said the Avangard strikes “like a meteorite, like a fireball.”
Putin added that Russia’s hypersonic program to produce the world’s most advanced weapons would remain a high priority. He mentioned in March that the missile entered series production.
“These kinds of boost-glide vehicles attack the gaps in our missile defense system,” Thomas Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told CNBC.
“There’s no time like the present to modify our current missile defense posture,” Karako added, saying it was “unfortunate that we have let Russia come this far.”
Sources familiar with Russia’s hypersonic program asses that the hypersonic glide vehicles equipped with “onboard countermeasures,” can defeat NATO’s U.S.-led missile defenses. The weapon is capable of sharp evasive maneuvers — making it virtually undetectable to radar.
The intelligence reports, which were released for government officials this spring, estimate that Russia’s hypersonic glide vehicles could be on the modern battlefield by 2020, a significant move on the geopolitical chessboard that would surpass Washington and Beijing in their capacity to yield an operational hypersonic weapon on the modern battlefield.
Also in March, the commander of the United States Strategic Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee that U.S. forces are unable to shield against a hypersonic weapon attack.
“We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Both Russia and China are aggressively pursuing hypersonic capabilities,” he added, noting that the U.S. has “watched them test those capabilities.”
Hyten suggested that the U.S. is powerless against hypersonic weapon threats and has to rely on increased deterrence to counter the threat.
Hyten added, “so our response would be our deterrent force which would be the triad and the nuclear capabilities that we have to respond to such a threat.” In other words, if Russia launches a hypersonic missile attack on the U.S., the Pentagon will respond with nuclear war.
On the geopolitical chessboard, it seems as Moscow declared checkmate with Washington via the development and rapid fielding of hypersonic weapons that render NATO’s U.S.-led missile defense system entirely worthless. America’s military-industrial complex recognizes this as a crisis and is willing to bankrupt the United States with unprecedented amounts of military spending to counter this threat.