Yuri Baluyevsky, first deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces gave few details about the device tested, but said it was a hypersonic vehicle that could maneuver while in orbit.

A weapon mounted on the craft could use that maneuverability to dodge missile defence systems.

"The flying vehicle changed both altitude and direction of its flight," Baluyevsky said on Thursday.

His statement shed light on claims made a day earlier by President Vladimir Putin that Russia could build unrivaled new strategic weapons.

Guarded US 

"The flying vehicle changed both altitude and direction of its flight"

Yuri Baluyevsky
First deputy chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces


Asked about the Russian breakthrough, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard Myers said "I have to take Putin at his word, I guess…they have got to design a missile force that they think is sufficient for deterrence, just like we do."

Putin said the development of new weapons was not directed against the United States and Baluyevsky reaffirmed the statement, saying the experiment should not be seen as Russia's response to US missile defence plans.

"The experiment conducted by us must not be interpreted as a warning to the Americans not to build their missile defence because we designed this thing," Baluyevsky said.

"We have demonstrated our capability, but we have no intention to build this craft tomorrow," he said.

Baluyevsky also said Russia was developing a new, submarine-based ballistic missile and a new nuclear submarine equipped to carry it that would enter service this decade.

He also said that the military was developing a new ground based missile.