He has just overseen a test of a new hypersonic glide vehicle, declaring the weapon is impossible to intercept and will ensure the country’s security for decades to come.
Putin added Russia would now deploy its first regiment of hypersonic nuclear-capable missiles next year, reports the Press Association.
Speaking to Russia’s top military brass after watching the live feed of the launch of the Avangard vehicle from the Defence Ministry’s control room, Putin said the successful test was a “great success” and an “excellent New Year’s gift to the nation”.
The Kremlin described the test in a statement, saying that an Avangard missile, launched from a location in south-west Russia, had successfully hit and destroyed a target in the Russian Far East.
Putin announced an array of new weapons in March, including the Avangard, in one of his most bellicose speeches in years, saying they could hit almost any point in the world and evade a US-built missile shield.
The test comes amid bitter tensions in Russia-US relations, which have sunk to their lowest level since Cold War times over the conflict in Ukraine, the war in Syria and the allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
Putin’s hopes for repairing ties with Washington under President Donald Trump have fizzled amid investigations into allegations of Trump’s campaign ties with Russia, and tensions have escalated as the US administration slapped Russia with new waves of sanctions.
The Avangard was among the array of new nuclear weapons that Putin presented in March, saying that Russia had to develop them in response to the development of the US missile defence system that could erode Russia’s nuclear deterrent.
In Wednesday’s test, the weapon was launched from the Dombarovskiy missile base in the southern Ural Mountains.
The Kremlin said it successfully hit a designated practice target on the Kura shooting range on Kamchatka, 3,700 miles away.
“The Avangard is invulnerable to intercept by any existing and prospective missile defense means of the potential adversary,” Putin said after the test, adding that the new weapon will enter service next year with the military’s Strategic Missile Forces.
When first presenting the Avangard in March, the Russian leader said the new system has an intercontinental range and can fly in the atmosphere at 20 times the speed of sound, bypassing the enemy’s missile defence.
He emphasised that no other country currently has hypersonic weapons.
Putin has said that Avangard is designed using new composite materials to withstand temperatures of up to 2,000C that come from a flight through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds.