Putin boasts new strategic weapons will make US missile defense “useless”

Enlarge / Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federal Assembly at Moscow’s Manezh exhibition centre on March 01, 2018. He announced a plethora of new strategic weapons that challenge the US’ ballistic missile defenses. (credit: YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

In his State of the Nation speech today, Russian president Vladimir Putin showed computer animations and videos demonstrating three new classes of strategic weapons under development that are specifically intended to defeat the United States’ ballistic missile defenses. Among them were two weapons powered by miniaturized nuclear reactors: a drone submarine “torpedo” previously revealed in a Russian news leak and a cruise “missile” drone with what Putin described as a virtually unlimited range. The third was a new non-ballistic, hypersonic ICBM capable of evading US missile interceptors.

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The weapons, Putin said, were a direct response to the US’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and its continued development of ballistic missile defenses—which the Russian government has argued undermine the strategic deterrent value of Russia’s existing nuclear force. “No one has listened to us,” said Putin. “Listen to us now.”

A little something extra for the fallout

Putin claimed that the cruise missile’s miniaturized nuclear power plant had been successfully tested last fall and that, when built, the weapon would have a “practically unlimited” range. An animation showed a computer-generated image of the weapon flying close to the ground, following terrain contours, flying over mountains, and out to sea, avoiding seaborne air defense radars on its way to a virtual target. A similar animation showed nuclear-powered torpedoes launched from a submarine, traveling “intercontinental” distances, and striking a US aircraft carrier and exploding near a shore facility. This was the first official public announcement of both weapons.

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