Russia has said it will develop a new hypersonic missile and a land-based version of an existing cruise missile by 2021 following the demise of a key nuclear arms control treaty with the US.
On Tuesday, defence minister Sergei Shoigu issued a deadline to top brass to create a long-range, land-based hypersonic missile as well as modify the air-and-sea-based Kalibr cruise missile, which he said had “recommended itself well in Syria”.
At the meeting in the military's three-tiered, high-tech “war room” in downtown Moscow, he also called for the range of all missiles under development to be extended.
Vladimir Putin said Russia would leave the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty and develop new weapons on Saturday, the day after the United States announced its withdrawal.
Donald Trump, the US president, has accused Moscow of violating the treaty with “impunity”, a reference to years of complaints that it was secretly developing a prohibited missile.
The Kremlin, on the other hand, has argued that US missile defence and drone capabilities constitute a violation of the agreement.
The end of the INF raises the spectre of an arms race with both Russia and China, the latter of which has been actively developing missiles within the 500- to 5,500-kilometre range banned by the US-Russian agreement.
It has also alarmed European countries that will be in range of new Russian missiles.
Under Mr Trump, the US has already begun developing its first new long-range nuclear weapons since 1991.
Mr Putin announced new nuclear weapons including a nuclear-powered cruise missile, “doomsday” torpedo, glider warhead and long-range hypersonic missile in March.
At the same time, Russia has begun raising the pension age in the face of economic woes.
Mr Shoigu said adapting the Kalibr cruise missile for land would save time and money in developing mid-range arms. He had promised Mr Putin on Saturday to stay within the military's existing budget.
With the INF treaty disintegrating and the New Start arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia set to expire in 2021, the world could soon be without major nuclear arms control agreements for the first time since the Cold War.
Russian state media have been boasting of breakthroughs in weaponry in recent days. The government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported on Sunday that hypersonic missiles were “not a bluff” and warned that the new Poseidon autonomous torpedo could “lie in wait along the US coast with a 100-megatonne nuclear warhead, becoming a doomsday weapon”.
On Tuesday, it was reported that a "dazzling" night weapon has been deployed on two warships. Its high-intensity strobe light can allegedly make enemies go temporarily blind, feel disoriented or want to vomit.
The day before, Russia's space agency also released the first drawing of a “hypersonic space drone” it said would undergo testing by 2023.