Russia tests new ballistic missile Putin says will ‘ensure security from external threats’
Russia tests nuclear-capable Sarmat missile that Putin says will make foes ‘think twice’
- The ICBM – dubbed ‘Satan 2’ by analysts – is among Moscow’s next-generation arms, which include the Kinzhal hypersonic weapons recently used in Ukraine
- The Sarmat weighs over 200 tonnes, can transport multiple warheads, and is designed to elude anti-missile defence systems with a short initial boost phase
In a show of strength two months into its assault on Ukraine, Russia test-launched a new nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile which President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday would make Moscow’s enemies “think twice”.
The Sarmat – dubbed Satan 2 by Western analysts – is among Russia’s next-generation missiles that Putin has called “invincible”, and which also include the Kinzhal and Avangard hypersonic missiles.
Last month, Russia said it used Kinzhal for the first time in warfare to strike a target in Ukraine, where Russian troops have been engaged in a “special military operation” since February 24.
“I congratulate you on the successful launch of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile,” Putin told the army in televised remarks on Wednesday.
“This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure the security of Russia from external threats and make those who, in the heat of aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country, think twice,” Putin said.
Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement the test “successfully” took place at the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia.
According to the ministry, the missile delivered training warheads to the Kura test range of the Kamchatka peninsula, in Russia’s Far East.
“Sarmat is the most powerful missile with the longest range of destruction of targets in the world, which will significantly increase the combat power of our country’s strategic nuclear forces,” the ministry said.
The Sarmat superheavy intercontinental ballistic missile is designed to elude anti-missile defence systems with a short initial boost phase, giving enemy surveillance systems a tiny window to track it.
Weighing more than 200 tonnes and able to transport multiple warheads, Putin says the missile can hit any target on Earth.
“The new complex has the highest tactical and technical characteristics and is capable of overcoming all modern means of anti-missile defence. It has no analogues in the world and won’t have for a long time to come,” he said.
The weapon has been under development for years and so its test launch is not a surprise for the West, but it comes at a moment of extreme geopolitical tension due to Russia’s eight-week-old war in Ukraine.
Launching the invasion in February, Putin made a pointed reference to Russia’s nuclear forces and warned the West that any attempt to get in its way “will lead you to such consequences that you have never encountered in your history”.
Days later, he ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to be put on high alert, raising concerns in the West.
“The prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last month.
The Pentagon said on Wednesday that Russia properly notified the United States ahead of the intercontinental ballistic missile test launch, adding it saw the test as routine and not a threat to the US.
Jack Watling of the RUSI think-tank in London said there was an element of posturing and symbolism involved in the launch, less than three weeks before the annual Victory Day parade where Russia shows off its latest weapons.
“The timing of the test reflects the Russians wanting to have something to show as a technological achievement in the lead-up to Victory Day, at a time when a lot of their technology has not delivered the results they would have liked,” Watling said.
Douglas Barrie, senior fellow for military aerospace at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the launch was an important milestone after years of delays caused by funding issues and design challenges.
He said more tests would be needed before Russia could actually deploy it in place of ageing SS-18 and SS-19 missiles that were “well past their sell-by date”.
Barrie said the Sarmat’s ability to carry 10 or more warheads and decoys, and Russia’s option of firing it over either of the Earth’s poles, posed a challenge to ground and satellite-based radar and tracking systems.
Igor Korotchenko, editor in chief of Russia’s National Defence magazine, told RIA news agency it was a signal to the West that Moscow was capable of meting out “crushing retribution that will put an end to the history of any country that has encroached on the security of Russia and its people”.
Agence France-Presse and Reuters