RUSSIA is developing a secret new mini-sized hypersonic missile it claims can beat any defences.
Tests will start next year on the weapon codenamed Ostrota – or Sharpness – as Vladimir Putin accelerates his bid to outdo the West's firepower.
The latest missile, a smaller version of existing hypersonic rockets, will be deployed with supersonic Tu-22M3 bombers and Su-34 fighter-bombers.
It is equipped with a specially adapted ramjet engine “to break through any modern air defence systems”, reports pro-Kremlin paper Izvestia.
Separately, Russia has confirmed the first of four final tests on the deadly new Zircon hypersonic nukes will be in June, with all complete by the end of the summer.
The 6,100 mph “unstoppable” cruise missile is on track to go into service next year.
Putin sees the lethal Mach 8 ship-launched Zircon as his weapon of choice to target US cities in the event of a nuclear conflict, it has been reported.
"The first launch of the Zircon missile from the frigate Admiral Gorshkov under the programme of state trials is scheduled for June," a defence source told TASS.
It is also confirmed that Russia’s Baltic Fleet is to be “seriously increased” – and that submarines armed with new-age Zircon missiles are expected to be deployed to protect the new undersea Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
The air-launched Ostrota small-sized hypersonic missiles are seen as modernising Russia’s non-nuclear defences.
Experts say they will ensure Russia’s “leading position in this field of high-tech type of weapons” and offer “irresistible blows” to heavily protected targets.
“A ramjet engine was developed specially for the new super-high-speed rocket,” reported Izvestia.
Russia already has the terrifying Avangard nuclear missile system with a hypersonic glide vehicle which Putin claims strikes “like a meteorite”.
It is said to be capable of travelling at 20 times the speed of sound, skimming the Earth’s atmosphere, and hitting anywhere in the world in less than 30 minutes.
It also has the 7,700mph Dagger which is launched from a MiG-31 fighter and strikes at ten times the speed of sound.
Putin boasted on Thursday that the Russian military is now leading the world in modern weaponry.
He said: "We commission new aviation systems that are unmatched throughout the world – combat surface ships and submarines – and top-notch drones.
"Of course, the question arises as to what the current state and development perspectives of the armed forces are.
“This may sound strange for many, but everything is more than OK on our side.
"We have the most cutting-edge nuclear deterrence forces out of all nuclear powers.”
Russia was able to bring new weapons to fruition thanks to careful military spending and the preservation of scientific schools to train engineers, he said.
"We manage to maintain our armed forces at a proper level without militarising our budget, and we will keep doing this,” he added.
Nikolai Yevmenov, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, said the fleet "is gaining even greater importance in connection with the new challenges and threats posed by the expansion of Nato's presence in the Baltic region”.
Military expert Colonel Nikolai Shulgin told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Putin’s new hypersonic missiles will be deployed “to ensure the safety of important economic projects related to the transportation of hydrocarbons to Europe”.
Joe Biden this week waived sanctions on Nord Stream 2 in a bid to mend relations with Germany, which hopes to buy huge quantities of gas from Russia.
This is despite fears in Washington that the Kremlin will use the gas supply to weaken EU states by increasing dependency on Moscow.
The waivers can be rescinded by the US secretary of state Antony Blinken amid strong feelings in Washington that Nord Stream is a "a gift to Putin”.
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