Like a wild beast backed into a corner, Putin went on the offensive and while Russia’s currently drowning in sanctions that are supposed to cripple it, it still remains a dangerous country and a real threat to the West.
Specifically, because of their best-in-class nuclear weapons.
Back in 2018, Putin said “No one in the world has anything like that”. “No one has listened to us,” Putin declared. “You listen to us now.”
These included the cruise missile with a nuclear engine, as well as the publicly known RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the previously unacknowledged nuclear-tipped Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle, and Kanyon or Status-6 nuclear-armed unmanned undersea vehicle, a possibly dual-purpose nuclear and conventional air-launched hypersonic cruise missile called Kinzhal, and a short-range directed-energy system visually similar to the U.S. Navy’s own AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System.
Hypersonic cruise missiles
Putin disclosed was the Kinzhal air-launched hypersonic missile, which a video showed a MiG-31 Foxhound interceptor carrying aloft and releasing. It is not clear whether or not that jet is the primary launch platform or if this system is nuclear capable. It reportedly has a range of approximately 1,250 miles and a top speed of more than 10 times the speed of sound. According to the Russian president, units in the country’s Southern Military District, which borders Ukraine and the Black Sea, have deployed the missiles operationally.
A more capable heavy ICBM
This hypersonic boost vehicle has also long been among the many rumored capabilities of the upcoming RS-28 Sarmat ICBM, which has entered service in 2021. This system, which NATO also calls the SS-X-30 Satan 2, will replace the older R-36M or SS-18 Satan as Russia’s primary silo-based ICBM.
The RS-28 is reportedly significant faster than the older R-36M and will carry multiple warheads of some form, each capable of independent movement. Beyond the possible use of hypersonic boost glide vehicle warheads, other reports have suggested it might have a fractional orbital bombardment capability, in which the re-entry vehicles enter low earth orbit briefly and “go cold,” making it hard to track their onward progress before they come hurtling down on a target.
Avangard, a nuclear hypersonic boost-glide vehicle.
Avangard can reach speeds of up to 20 times the speed of sound, making rapid course adjustments and hitting targets “like a meteorite”, according to Putin himself.
Considering that the speed of sound is a whopping 767 mph, it doesn’t take long to see how the Russian Avangard would be almost impossible to detect and counter. A nuclear-powered cruise missile with a nearly unlimited range, such a weapon could potentially avoid defense systems and change course mid-flight. Not to mention produce unimaginable damage on impact.
A nuclear-armed underwater drone
In addition, Putin publicly announced Russia has been working on a nuclear-armed unmanned undersea vehicle. There have been a number of reports of both of these weapons being in development for years, but without any clear official confirmation. The craft, which Putin says has no official name as yet, but which observers have referred to as Kanyon and Status-6 since information about the system first leaked out in 2015, is a completely different approach to avoiding missile defenses.
Launched from a submarine well off shore, the underwater drone then makes it ways to the target area, avoiding any sensor networks or other defenses, before detonating its reportedly dirty warhead, causing significant immediate damage and lasting contamination. A computer-generated presentation about the vehicle shows a modified Oscar II class submarine carrying a pair of the unmanned submarines in a special forward compartment.
Keep in mind, that was 4 years ago, which seems like forever. Who knows what technology they have around these days?
That’s not to say Uncle Sam doesn’t have nuclear warheads or defense systems, but let’s just hope we don’t get to use them anytime soon.
Mostly, because our defense systems wouldn’t help too much.
A recent study sponsored by the American Physical Society concluded that U.S. “defense” systems cannot really defend our country against even a limited nuclear strike.