On Thursday, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin disclosed that Russia had carried out a successful test of an experimental nuclear-powered cruise missile. This development has raised concerns and hints at the possibility of Russia reconsidering its ratification of a significant nuclear test ban treaty and potentially resuming nuclear weapon testing.
He mentioned that they had conducted the most recent successful test of the Burevestnik nuclear-powered global-range cruise missile, without providing further details. This marked the first official confirmation of a successful Burevestnik test, a missile referred to as the “Storm Petrel,” which President Putin initially mentioned in 2018.
Putin has stated that Russia could potentially withdraw from the nuclear test ban treaty, which typically forbids the testing of nuclear weapons. However, he emphasized that no definitive decision has been reached at this time.
This missile is thought to have the capability to transport either a nuclear or conventional warhead. Moreover, it has the potential to remain airborne for extended periods and cover significantly greater distances, thanks to its nuclear propulsion system. This missile is launched from the ground and possesses both nuclear-capable and nuclear-powered features. Its standout characteristic is its remarkable range, as noted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which indicated it could potentially cover distances of up to 20,000 km. This suggests that when deployed within Russia, the missile could theoretically reach targets in the United States, as reported by Reuters.
Another remarkable attribute of this missile is its capacity to operate at extremely low altitudes, typically ranging from 50 to 100 meters above the ground. This characteristic grants it a significant stealth advantage, allowing it to avoid detection by air-defense radar systems quite effectively. According to the United States Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center in 2020, once operational, this missile would provide Moscow with a “unique weapon possessing intercontinental-range capability,” as reported by Reuters.
Code-named ‘Skyfall’ by NATO, Western scientists have been sceptical about it, saying that a nuclear engine could be highly untrustworthy. During his speech, Putin asserted that the West was endeavouring to establish what he referred to as “a new Iron Curtain.” Additionally, he placed the blame for the Russian invasion of Ukraine squarely on the shoulders of Western powers.
Since the commencement of the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Putin has consistently underscored Russia’s nuclear capabilities. He has asserted that deploying nuclear weapons against Russia would be an irrational decision. In the event that any country were to contemplate such an action, Russia possesses a significant arsenal of missiles, numbering in the hundreds, that could be swiftly deployed, leaving no chance for any potential adversary to survive, as per his statements.