Checkmate: Russia’s Hypersonic Missile Ready For War By 2020

Russia’s new weapons for the modern battlefield, including an array of hypersonic missiles and the latest nuclear systems, will secure the country’s security for many decades, President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday at a conference with top military officials.

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.

President Vladimir 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.

Earlier this week, CNBC validated Putin’s claim of a hypersonic weapon the U.S. is currently unable to defend against, which the report indicates the weapon will be ready for war by 2020, according to sources with vast knowledge of American intelligence reports.

The sources told CNBC 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 just Mach 20 capabilities can pack enough force to annihilate targets. In March, Putin said the Avangard strikes “like a meteorite, like a fireball.”

Putin said at Tuesday’s conference 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.

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. As for now, Russia has the upper hand in hypersonic weapons, which Washington is starting to realize the idea of American Hegemony is beginning to crack.

NHTSA Opens Third Investigation Into A Tesla Crash This Year

Just yesterday we wrote that it was starting to feel like the movie Groundhog Day for Tesla when it comes to the company’s executive departures.  Now, there is again a distinct Groundhog Day feel to Tesla – but this time as it relates to U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigations.

Continuing in what has been an unprecedented storm of negative headlines for Elon Musk’s company that started a couple months ago, it was announced today that the NHTSA is going to be investigating a recent Tesla crash in Utah. Reuters reported:

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said on Wednesday that it was sending a team to investigate the crash of a Tesla Inc vehicle last week in Utah that the driver said occurred while the car was in autopilot mode. It is the third Tesla crash that may be linked to the semi-autonomous Autopilot system being investigated by the government agency since January.

“The agency has launched its special crash investigations team to gather information on the South Jordan, Utah, crash,” the agency said on Wednesday. “NHTSA will take appropriate action based on its review.”

That crash, as described previously, involved a Tesla Model S sedan which smashed into a Salt Lake City fire truck while traveling at 60 miles per hour last Friday night. The driver said she was using autopilot at the time of the crash and suffered a broken ankle.

The big surprise, as the article points out, is that this is the third investigation that the NHTSA has launched into Tesla since January. This should be of concern for the company as the NHTSA has the authority to force the company into issuing recalls which, if costly enough, could be a financial hurdle that Tesla might have trouble surviving in its current financial state.

NHTSA is also investigating a fatal crash in March that involved a Tesla Model X using Autopilot. It is also probing the January crash of a Tesla vehicle apparently traveling in Autopilot that struck a fire truck. Both incidents were in California.

Last week, NHTSA also said it would probe a May 8 Tesla accident in Florida that killed two teenagers and injured another. Autopilot was not thought to play a part.

NHTSA can order a recall if it finds a defect poses an unreasonable risk to safety.

Certainly the timing of this NHTSA regulatory scrutiny couldn’t be worse for the company, because in addition to its precarious financials, the company main liason to regulators sch as the NTSB and NHTSA departed the company just days ago. 

Last Saturday, Tesla competitor Waymo announced that Tesla’s Matt Schwall has begun working for the self-driving car unit. According to Schwall’s LinkedIn Bio, he had been Tesla’s “primary technical contact” with both the NTSB & NHTSA, suggesting the company’s troubles with government regulators may be set to escalate.

Regulators aside, analysts have continued to question why the revolving door of executives continues and explore what the potential complications could be as a result. Needless to say, it isn’t good news for Tesla. 

Also as a reminder, on Sunday morning the WSJ wrote a scathing critique of Tesla’s autopilot,” In Self-Driving Car Road Test, We Are the Guinea Pigs” in which it questioned the validity of Elon Musk’s claims about Tesla’s safety record:

Tesla says that its cars with autonomous driving technology are 3.7 times safer than the average American vehicle. It’s true that Teslas are among the safest cars on the road, but it isn’t clear how much of this safety is due to the driving habits of its enthusiast owners (for now, those who can afford Teslas) or other factors, such as build quality or the cars’ crash avoidance technology, rather than Autopilot.

In the wake of a fatal 2016 crash, which happened when Autopilot was engaged, Tesla cited a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as evidence that Autopilot mode makes Teslas 40% safer. NHTSA recently clarified the report was based on Tesla’s own unaudited data, and NHTSA didn’t take into account whether Autopilot was engaged. Complicating things further, Tesla rolled out an auto-braking safety feature—which almost certainly reduced crashes—shortly before it launched Autopilot.

As the WSJ also notes, “there isn’t enough data to verify that self-driving vehicles cause fewer accidents than human-driven ones.” A Rand Corp. study concluded that traffic fatalities already occur at such relatively low rates—on the order of 1 per 100 million miles traveled—that determining whether self-driving cars are safer than humans could take decades.

For now, we’ll wait for the NHTSA’s verdict.