Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Russia's first hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missiles, described by Moscow as invulnerable to U.S. defenses, have been put into service, officials said Friday.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed Russian President Vladimir Putin the first regiment of the nuclear-capable Avangard missiles had "assumed combat duty" as of Friday morning, state-run news agency Tass reported.
Gen. Sergei Karakayev, chief of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, said the missiles had been deployed in central Russia's Orenburg region, located in the Ural Mountains about 930 miles southeast of Moscow.
The Russian military demonstrated the Avangard last month for a team of inspectors from the United States as part of a bilateral arms control treaty. The system was announced by Putin last year.
Moscow says the hypersonic weapon is highly mobile and can outsmart U.S. missile defenses, flying at 20 times the speed of sound.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week Moscow is willing to include the Avangard and the heavy Sarmat missile in negotiations with the United States to extend the New START arms treaty before it expires in 2021.
The pact was last extended in 2010 by then-U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The accord places a cap on 1,500 developed weapons, 700 deployed missiles and 800 deployed and non-deployed launchers.