Nuclear missiles

Russia tests nuclear-capable missile as Ukraine war drives technological innovation

Image credit: Dreamstime

Vladimir Putin has boasted of Russia's intercontinental ballistic weapon that he says will provide rivals with ‘food for thought'.

The Russian military said it has successfully performed the first test of a new nuclear-capable Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which the country's president, Vladimir Putin, claims would make the West “think twice” about any aggressive intentions against Russia.

“The new complex has the highest tactical and technical characteristics and is capable of overcoming all modern means of anti-missile defence," Putin said. "It has no analogues in the world and will not have for a long time to come."

The Sarmat ICBM was launched on Wednesday from the Plesetsk launch facility in northern Russia and its practice warheads have reportedly reached mock targets on the Kura firing range on the far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that Russia had given the US an advance notice about the launch in line with the 'New Start' nuclear arms control treaty between Moscow and Washington.

“We did not deem the test to be a threat to the United States or its allies,” he said.

According to Russian authorities, the new missile has no foreign analogues and is capable of penetrating any prospective missile defence. The Sarmat ICBM has been under development for several years and it is expected to replace the Soviet-made Voyevoda, code-named Satan by the West and which forms the core of Russia’s nuclear deterrent.

Amid the new Western sanctions that banned the exports of high-tech products to Russia and specifically targeted its arms industries following the February invasion of Ukraine, Putin emphasised that the new missile has been built exclusively from domestic components.

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the state Roscosmos agency that oversees the missile factory building the Sarmat, said the ICBM is set to be commissioned by the military this autumn after the completion of its trials, calling it a “superweapon”.

The test launch of the missile comes amid soaring tensions between Moscow and the West over the Russian military action in Ukraine.

In this context, the United States has become the first country to announce a ban on missile tests against space satellites. The US, China, India and Russia have all previously carried out such tests, generating a tremendous amount of space debris in the process.

US Vice-President Kamala Harris, who chairs the National Space Council, explained that stopping the direct ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) missile testing will safeguard satellites in low-Earth orbit. She urged other nations to follow suit.

"This debris presents a risk to the safety of our astronauts, our satellites and our growing commercial presence," she said. "Simply put, these tests are dangerous and we will not conduct them."

In 2021, Russia test-launched an anti-satellite missile that struck a defunct Soviet-era spy satellite in low-Earth orbit, creating at least 1,632 pieces of space debris, according to a US Space Force database of orbital objects. China conducted a similar test in 2007.

Harris referred to the Russian test in her speech, stating that these tests are part of Russia's efforts to develop anti-satellite weapons systems and "deny the United States our ability to use our space capabilities."

In this context, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has also led to the development of new technologies that aim to protect the local population and promote the rebuilding of the nation once the conflict ends.

One Czech company has announced it is 3D-printing barriers for the Ukrainian army and will send printers to the country to help rebuild homes after the war. The 3D-printed concrete structures are designed to protect soldiers against light weapons and grenades. 

Tomas Vranek, CEO, ICE Industrial Services said: "We did a test in ballistic laboratories with very good results and we have proven that our solution is very safe."

"These barriers are a necessary and current first step," added Gerogii Nikolaiev, trade worker at Ussp Czechia. "Ukraine has already received a decision of President Zelenskiy about the renewal of the destroyed areas and building new housing and infrastructure."

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