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WASHINGTON — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that Moscow will deploy hypersonic weapons in the "coming months," a significant step that would enable the Kremlin to surpass the U.S. and China.
A hypersonic weapon can travel at least five times the speed of sound, or about one mile per second. What's more, the U.S. is currently unable to defend against this breed of threat.
Putin, who was speaking at a forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, added that Moscow's hypersonic weapons program was ahead of its competitors.
The latest revelations come less than eight months after Putin touted his nation's growing hypersonic arsenal as "invincible" during a state of the nation address. The weapons included a nuclear-powered cruise missile, a nuclear-powered underwater drone and a new hypersonic missile.
"I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country's development: You have failed to contain Russia," Putin said during the address in March.
Of the six weapons Putin debuted in March, CNBC has learned that two of them will be ready for war by 2020, according to sources with direct knowledge of U.S. intelligence reports.
The Russian leader also discussed the use of nuclear weapons and said Moscow would only deploy nukes in response to an attack.
There are about 14,500 nuclear weapons in the world and nine nations that possess them, according to a recent analysis. The U.S. and Russia own the lion's share of the world's nukes with a combined total of approximately 13,350 nuclear weapons.