Putin says Russia got its troubled nuclear-powered cruise missile to work after years of failure and a deadly disaster – DAVID RAUDALES


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Putin says Russia got its troubled nuclear-powered cruise missile to work after years of failure and a deadly disaster

Tests of a cruise missile with a Burevestnik nuclear engine.

RIA Novosti / Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

Putin says Russia tested an experimental nuclear-powered cruise missile.
Development of the Burevestnik was previously unveiled in 2018 alongside five other new strategic weapons.
Its previous tests have failed, and an explosion in 2019 tied to the missile killed multiple people.

Russian leadership claims the country tested one of its new “super weapons,” specifically the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, and apparently it worked and didn’t result in a disaster like a previous test.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the latest test of the cruise missile at the Valdai International Discussion Club, Russian state media reported on Thursday. Satellite imagery collected over a remote Russian base in the Arctic and analysis from The New York Times suggested earlier this week that Russia was preparing for a cruise missile test. US surveillance planes have been monitoring the area for the last two weeks. 

The 9M730 Burevestnik is an experimental nuclear-powered, nuclear-capable cruise missile. It has a theoretically unlimited range, if its nuclear reactor activates, and was one of the six Russian strategic “super weapons,” unveiled by Putin in 2018.

Three other missiles in that mix of weapons are the 3M22 Zircon anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile of questionable capability currently deployed with the Russian Navy; the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile, a supposedly unbeatable hypersonic weapon that was defeated by Ukraine’s US-provided Patriot air defense batteries; and the RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile recently put in service.

The other two weapons are the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle and Poseidon torpedo.

Speaking on the Burevestnik missile in 2018, Putin said the “low-flying, stealth cruise missile with a nuclear warhead with a practically unlimited range, unpredictable flight path and the ability to bypass interception lines is invulnerable to all existing and future missile defense and air defense systems.”

“No one in the world has anything like it,” he added.

This pool photograph distributed by Russian state owned agency Sputnik shows Russian President Vladimir Putin addressing the plenary session of the Valdai Discussion Club forum in Sochi on October 5, 2023.


Putin didn’t say when the Burevestnik was tested, but assuming it was tested as he claimed Thursday, it would mark the first known launch since 2019. The one-of-a-kind cruise missile has had a troubled history.

Russia previously conducted 13 known tests of the subsonic nuclear-powered cruise missile between 2017 and 2019, per The New York Times, and all of the tests are believed to have been unsuccessful, though there were some partial achievements.

Moscow had one somewhat promising test of the Burevestnik, which means “Announcer of the Storm,” at the Nyonoksa testing range on Russia’s northern coast. It lasted only a little more than two minutes and saw the missile fly just 22 miles before crashing into the sea, where others have wound up. The shortest test, per CNBC, lasted only about four seconds, and the weapon only flew a few miles.

Beyond struggles with the technology — which is similar to some US efforts that were abandoned decades ago because the concept was, as one arms control expert told Insider, “a technical, strategic, and environmental nightmare” — Russia’s work on this weapon has also been deadly.

In early August 2019, an explosion at the Nyonoksa test range killed multiple people, including a handful of Russian engineers, and triggered a spike in radiation levels in nearby towns. Early on, given the location, there was speculation that the incident was related to a failed test of the Russian Burevestnik missile, which NATO refers to as SSC-X-9 Skyfall, though information was limited.

Explanations coming out of Russia varied amid indications Moscow was covering up a nuclear accident. Later, details emerged about the types of radioactive isotopes that were released in event, leading experts to conclude that a small nuclear reactor exploded. In a tweet, then-President Donald Trump called it the “Skyfall explosion,” further indicating the deadly blast was tied to Burevestnik.

A CNBC report on US intelligence later revealed that the explosion didn’t occur during a test but rather during a recovery operation. In a statement from a State Department official a couple months later, that was confirmed to be the case.

“The United States has determined that the explosion near Nenoksa, Russia, was the result of a nuclear reaction that occurred during the recovery of a Russian nuclear-powered cruise missile,” that October 2019 report said. “The missile remained on the bed of the White Sea since its failed test early last year.”

It said Russia “has much to answer for” with regard to the August 2019 “‘Skyfall’ incident.”

Read the original article on Business Insider