Russia has released first images of its newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile, armed with a super-heavy thermonuclear warhead.
An illustration of the RS-28 Sarmat missile was released by Russia’s Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau on Sunday, according to Sputnik News agency.
It is set to replace the Cold-War era R-36 ICBM, dubbed “Satan” by NATO. According to the Zvezda news agency, the missile would be capable of wiping out an area the size of Texas or the slightly smaller France. It will reportedly travel at speeds of up to Mach 12, or over four kilometers per second, effectively rendering any existing US defense capabilities useless. It is expected to go into production by 2018.
The image of “Satan 2” released by the rocket agency was accompanied by the following text (translation from Sputnik):
In accordance with the Decree of the Russian Government ‘On the State Defense Order for 2010 and the planning period 2012-2013’, the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau was instructed to start design and development work on the Sarmat. In June 2011, the Russian Ministry of Defense signed a state contract for the Sarmat’s development. The prospective strategic missile system is being developed in order to create an assured and effective nuclear deterrent for Russia’s strategic forces.
The text was signed by the heads of the designer team, V. Degtar and Y. Kaverin.
RS-28 Sarmat ICBM pic.twitter.com/21V2bB8SXB
Robert Kelly, a nuclear expert formerly of the US Department of Energy, told NBC News that the improvements over the previous missile are likely in electronics rather than range or capability.
“The range of the missiles will be about the same, the explosive destructive power will be about the same [but] the reliability, flexibility and confidence [in the warheads’ ability to hit their targets] will go way up,” said Kelly.
He told NBC that “your iPhone can do thousands of more things today than in the 1970s when these systems were first deployed. Many of the clunky electronic circuits of that era no longer exist and no one knows how to make them anymore.”
The large payload will allow for the missile to carry up to 10 heavy warheads or 15 lighter ones. It is claimed that the missile will have a range of up to 10,000 kilometers, allowing it to reach all of Europe and both America’s east and west coasts.
The missile is reportedly undergoing tests near Miass in the Ural Mountains.
Tensions between Russia and the West have escalated to their worst level since the Cold War in recent years, after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine and launched a military campaign in Syria.
Since the start of the Ukraine crisis in 2014, Russia has flexed its muscles with a series of war games involving tens of thousands of troops in areas bordering NATO Baltic states.
NATO responded by agreeing to deploy four battalions in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as of next year to bolster its eastern flank.
Russia has also pulled the plug on a series of deals with the US — including a symbolic disarmament pact between the two nuclear powers to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium — as Washington halted talks on Syria.
The United States earlier this month called for Russia and Syria to be investigated for war crimes for the bombing of hospitals in Aleppo, and accused Moscow of trying to “interfere” with the American presidential election.
AFP contributed to this report.