The Russians have been developing the new Yu-71 vehicle for several years and conducted the most recent flight test in February, according to an article published this month in Jane’s Intelligence Review.
The development of the Yu-71 vehicle took several years, and Russia reportedly conducted the most recent test flight on February 26, with an SS-19 missile trying to deliver the Yu-71 to space. The new hypersonic aircraft is part of Moscow's plans to modernize its Strategic Missile Forces.
Yu-71, a secret missile program codenamed "Project 4202", has probable speed of up to 11,200 kmh (7,000 mph) and is extremely maneuverable, which makes it an incredibly dangerous and a hardly targetable weapon.
Jane’s concludes that Russia over the past five years has stepped up the secret program as part of efforts to defeat U.S. missile defenses that were designed to counter predictable ballistic targets.
China has reportedly conducted four flight tests of the Wu-14 aircraft, which can travel up to 7,000 mph.
A Sputnik News report maintains that Russia could deploy up to 24 nuclear-capable Yu-71 payloads between 2020 and 2025. Putin is also reportedly expected to develop the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, which could be capable of carrying hypersonic devices, during the same time frame.
Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon official who closely monitors Russian strategic weapons programs, said Moscow’s development of glide-strike vehicles and maneuvering warheads are high-priority programs.
Unlike China’s hypersonic weapons, which include the recently flight-tested Wu-14, the Russian program has been mentioned publicly by senior Russian officials, indicating its importance.
“Both are reportedly nuclear-oriented and the Chinese program seems more successful,” Schneider said, adding that Russian tests were reported to have been failures.
“The Russian program was clearly described as strategic in nature,” he added. “The Obama administration talks about the Chinese threat, but very little about the Russian threat, so our only sources of information are the Russian press.”
Project 4202 could produce a small number of glide vehicles by the end of the decade that may be equipped with nuclear warheads, the Jane’s report says.
“A test launch from the Dombarovsky missile division site in February 2015 suggests that Russia is actively pursuing the development of a hypersonic glide vehicle that could potentially expand the long-range strike capabilities of its Strategic Rocket Forces,” the report says.
Pavel Podvig, a co-author of the Jane’s report, said it is difficult to gauge the significance of the Russian hypersonic program.
SOURCES Janes Intelligence Report, Sputnick News, Free Beacon