Russia expects the carbon fiber components to be produced within 12 months of selection and still expects to meet its 2020 deadline, according to the person.
“It’s intriguing that they continue to run into problems, because they’ve been flight-testing this system for a long time,” said Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists.
“They’re running into the same problems that anyone else would run into if they would do this, and it gets back to the issue, of course, how important is this for Russia?” he added, noting Moscow’s ambition to develop hypersonic weapons.
Read more: Hypersonic weapons: What they are, and why the U.S. can’t defend against them
A spokesman for the Pentagon expressed skepticism about Russia’s hypersonic development.
“Obviously, Russian attempts to develop high-tech weaponry is something we watch closely. To this point, however, we’ve seen more grandiose claims of success than actual proof,” said Defense Department spokesman Eric Pahon. “We are continuing to develop our own defensive capabilities and improve readiness for both ourselves and our allies to counter any threats the Russians may develop.”
The latest revelations come less than eight months after Putin touted his nation’s growing hypersonic arsenal as “invincible.”
The hypersonic glide vehicle, dubbed Avangard, was one of the six weapons Putin presented in March. Avangard is designed to sit atop an intercontinental ballistic missile and uses aerodynamic forces to sail on top of the atmosphere.
Putin claimed Avangard was capable of reaching targets at a speed of 20 times the speed of sound and strikes “like a fireball.” He also said that the hypersonic warhead had already entered serial production.
“Certainly, heat management is a huge challenge; you know, you have this thing that is going through the atmosphere at very high speeds and potentially for a long period of time,” said James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“The longer you are in the atmosphere, the more heat you have to manage, and that’s been a huge challenge for the U.S. in hypersonics, and, in part, it’s really a material science challenge,” Acton added, noting the significant costs associated with testing and producing hypersonic weapons.