. 24/7 Space News .
Secret Russia weapon project: gamechanger or PR stunt?
By Michel MOUTOT
Paris (AFP) Aug 14, 2019

A deadly explosion at a Russian testing site has focused attention on President Vladimir Putin's bid to build a nuclear-powered missile that the Kremlin hopes would give Moscow the edge in a new arms race.

Western experts have linked the blast at the Nyonoksa test site on August 8, which caused a sharp spike in local radiation levels, to the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile first revealed by Putin in 2018.

The Kremlin has, however, not confirmed that the accident was linked to the Burevestnik project and the identity of the missile that exploded remains uncertain.

But while a nuclear-powered missile with the theoretical ability to strike any target on planet earth may seem attractive, analysts warn the technical difficulties and risks could outweigh any strategic gain.

Russia's nuclear agency Rosatom said that its staff, five of whom were killed in the blast, were providing engineering and technical support for the "isotope power source" of a missile.

- Why seek a nuclear-powered missile?

Fears of a new arms race between Russia and the US have intensified after the collapse this year of the Cold War era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

The aim of developing a nuclear-powered missile is to give it a range that is, in theory, unlimited, said Corentin Brustlein, head of security studies at the the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).

"This also, in theory, frees you up from the constraint of the amount of fuel that you can carry," he told AFP.

"With unlimited range, you can make major detours to strike the enemy in exposed zones, use trajectories that are not under surveillance and thwart and surprise American radar and their anti-missile defences," he added.

He said that Russia still has an "obsession" over American missile defence dating back to the Cold War and the presidency of Ronald Reagan who championed the Strategic Defence Initiative programme known as "Star Wars".

"They fear that the Americans one day will have a capacity to neutralise their arsenal using offensive and defensive means."

"Russia is multiplying its options to be certain to be able to penetrate American missile defence systems," he added.

- Are the risks too great?

The technical demands of manufacturing such a missile are huge, requiring the miniaturisation of a nuclear reactor to a scale where it can be put on the missile.

And the risks for the scientists and operators -- especially in the early phase of development -- are clear.

A former chief of a French intelligence service, who asked not to be named, told AFP that such safety considerations would normally act as a brake on the development of the weapons.

But "Russia does not respect the same security guidelines because they consider them to be too heavy," he said, noting that France only used nuclear reactors in submarines and its Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.

"Overall, is it worth it? We thought not and we are not the only ones."

Experts have rubbished any comparison with the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster -- which the Soviet authorities kept under wraps for days -- but there have been local radiation concerns.

Russia's weather service has said radiation levels were up to 16 times the norm in the nearby town of Severodvinsk after the explosion. It prompted residents to buy iodine, which can help prevent the thyroid gland from absorbing radiation.

Brustlein said that developing a nuclear-powered missile was "extremely complicated" for the sake of a "very dubious operational interest".

"The number of technical challenges that are needed to scale down a nuclear reactor to such a size and the constraints on tests are enormous."

"If you put together the technical challenges, the political, environmental consequences and the operational interest you end up with a very negative equation."

- Does Russia have other motives?

Prominent Russian military expert Alexander Golts described the missile as "completely useless and superfluous".

But the Kremlin's aims may go well beyond simple military strategy at a time when Putin's popularity is on the wane with Moscow rocked by regular opposition protests.

Touting military superiority remains a strong card for the Kremlin with Putin threatening to deploy "invincible" weapons against "decision-making centres" in the West.

"There is the aspect of nationalistic posturing which is extremely important. Putin wants to show that Russia is developing systems that the US does not have and that it is sustaining a technological competition," said Brustlein.

The former French intelligence chief added: "There is an important political dimension for Vladimir Putin -- he wants to show that Russia is still a great military power."

Related Links
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

Thanks for being there;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5+ Billed Monthly

paypal only
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal

Lockheed awarded $405.7M contract for Army's hypersonic missile
Washington (UPI) Aug 7, 2019
Lockheed Martin Space received a $405.7 million contract modification for the U.S. Army's hypersonic Conventional Prompt Strike missile, the Defense Department said. The company will design and construct large diameter rocket motors, associated elements and related support equipment for the Army's Intermediate Range Conventional Prompt Strike Weapon System flight test demonstrations, the Defense Department said on Tuesday. Work on the IRCPS will be done in Littleton, Colo., with an expec ... read more

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Xplore To Send Celestis Memorials to the Moon, and Beyond

Orion Service Module completes critical propulsion test

Two weeks of science and beyond on ISS

Study identifies way to enhance the sustainability of manufactured soils

AFRL achieves record-setting hypersonic ground test milestone

Lockheed awarded $405.7M contract for Army's hypersonic missile

In-Space selects Orbex for Scottish launch in 2022

SpaceX launches Falcon 9 carrying Israel's AMOS-17 satellite

Dark meets light on Mars

Methane not released by wind on Mars, experts find

Optometrists verify Mars 2020 rover's perfect vision

New finds for Mars rover, seven years after landing

China launches first private rocket capable of carrying satellites

Chinese scientists say goodbye to Tiangong-2

China's space lab Tiangong 2 destroyed in controlled fall to earth

From Moon to Mars, Chinese space engineers rise to new challenges

Embry-Riddle plans expansion of its Research Park through partnership with Space Square

Companies partner to offer a complete solution for space missions as a service

Space data relay system shows its speed

ATLAS Space Operations extends global reach with nine new ground stations

Q-Tech launches space-qualified multi-output LVDS Hybrid Oscillators

Lockheed awarded $176M for repairs on Navy's SPY-1 radar

How NASA will protect astronauts from space radiation at the Moon

Russia unveils ambitious project for laser recharging of satellites in orbit

Dead planets can 'broadcast' for up to a billion years

Pre-life building blocks spontaneously align in evolutionary experiment

Hordes of Earth's toughest creatures may now be living on Moon

Shining starlight on the search for life

Hubble showcases new portrait of Jupiter

Jupiter's auroras powered by alternating current

Kuiper Belt Binary Orientations Support Streaming Instability Hypothesis

Study Shows How Icy Outer Solar System Satellites May Have Formed

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.