On October 20th, CNN reported that it had analyzed satellite images of Novaya Zemlya, Russia, which allegedly show that preparations are being made to test the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed cruise missile.
The missile is claimed to have virtually unlimited range.
The images, captured by Planet Labs in September, show high levels of activity at a site known as Pankovo, previously used by Russia to test its Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, according to Michael Duitsman and Jeffrey Lewis, researchers at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
Russia appeared to pause testing of the missile after 2018, when it dismantled the launch site but “the new satellite photographs indicate that the pause is over,” they added.
“The activity and new construction are consistent with a resumption of test flights of the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile,” Lewis and Duitsman wrote in a new report, noting that the images show Russia has rebuilt the site’s launch pad and reveal “large numbers of shipping containers at two support areas, including the probable missile checkout building.”
— Jeffrey Lewis (@ArmsControlWonk) October 20, 2020
According to experts, nuclear-powered cruise missiles development is a way Russia can avoid the New START prohibitions and achieve intercontinental range that can threaten any spot on the planet.
This is according to Vipin Narang, a nuclear proliferation expert and associate professor at MIT.
“A nuclear-powered cruise missile gives a low-flying, radar-evading, nuclear-capable missile intergalactic range that can pose a challenge to national missile defenses,” he said, adding that indications Russia may be preparing another test show “how much our missile defenses drive their developments and how scared they are of them, not today, but tomorrow.”
They are also highly controversial “because it’s crazy to put an unshielded nuclear reactor on a missile to power it,” Narang added, noting that the consequences of testing this type of weapon can be catastrophic if something goes wrong.
Also, yes, he was cited as having said “intergalactic”.
Russia has previously stated that its nuclear-powered cruise missile is not covered by the New START treaty, failure to extend the agreement could lead to the emergence of an arms race between the two countries, according to Lewis.
“The arms control framework that secured the post-Cold War has completely disintegrated. If and when the New START treaty expires in a few months, there will be no limits on US and Russian nuclear forces for the first time in fifty years. In its place is a burgeoning arms race as Russia develops one doomsday weapon after another to defeat US missile defenses,” he said.
“The United States and Russia seem to be stumbling into a new arms race. This is one of a number of dangerous and destabilizing weapons right out of science fiction that Russia is developing to defeat US missile defenses,” Lewis added.
None of this has been confirmed by the Russian side.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Russia Suggests Renewing New START With No Further Demands, How Desperate Is Trump For A ‘Win’?
- Putin Wants “Clear Answer” From US On Nuclear Arms Treaty, Offers 1-Year Extension