Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly touted the country's hypersonic systems research.
Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images
  • Russia has detained the head of a hypersonic research institute, state media reported Thursday.
  • Alexander Kuranov is said to be involved in research related to a hypersonic aircraft.
  • He was detained on suspicions of passing classified state secrets to foreign nationals.
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Russian state security agents detained the head of a research facility who has been working on hypersonic aircraft on suspicions of treason, Russian state media reported Thursday.

Federal Security Service agents detained 73-year-old Alexander Kuranov in Moscow, The Moscow Times reported.

Kuranov is the general director and chief designer at St Peterburg's State Hypersonic System Research Institute, where he worked on the development of a hypersonic aircraft as part of the long-running Ayaks programme.

The Ayaks programme is one that was started in the 1970s by the Soviet Union and has been continued, on and off, over the years. It is focused on designing and developing of a new hypersonic waverider aircraft for various military missions.

Militaries around the world have shown great interest in the development of hypersonic systems, especially the US, Russia, and China. Russia has repeatedly touted its hypersonic systems research.

Though much of the hypersonic systems research is focused on hypersonic missile technology, which can evade traditional air- and missile-defense systems with high-speed flight along unpredictable flight paths, there is also significant interest in the development of aircraft that can fly at speeds in excess of five times the speed of sound.

An unnamed source told Russian media outlet Interfax that preliminary data indicates that "Kuranov, who has been engaged in hypersonic technologies for many years, gave a foreign citizen information of a sealed nature about these scientific developments."

Another source told Interfax that Kuranov regularly had work-related meetings with foreign nationals. "In particular, representatives of the United States and China showed interest," the source said.

The Federal Security Service has asked that Kuranov be placed in pre-trial detention for two months.

As Reuters reported, treason is an offense that is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Charges of treason have been levelled against a number of Russian scientists, scholars, officials, and military personnel.

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