Report: Russia May Be Testing Missile With Massive Range

Satellite images reveal activity at 'flying Chernobyl' test site
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 2, 2023 3:16 PM CDT
Report: Russia May Be Testing Nuclear-Powered Cruise Missile
In this photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service last week, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visits the Tactical Missile Weapons Corporation in the Moscow region   (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Four years after an accident believed to have killed up to seven nuclear workers, Russia appears to be once again testing a missile critics have nicknamed the "flying Chernobyl," according to the New York Times. The newspaper says its analysis of satellite images of an Arctic base suggests Russia is either preparing to test the Burevestnik, aka the SSC-X-9 Skyfall, or has done so already. The missile is believed to be nuclear-powered, running on a small reactor that activates after launch, giving it essentially unlimited range.

The Burevestnik is one of six weapons Vladimir Putin introduced in a 2018 speech, boasting that they could overpower American defenses. The Nuclear Threat Initiative nonprofit says the missile underwent at least 13 tests between 2017 and 2019 and failed every time. American officials say that in its most successful flight, the missile flew 22 miles in two minutes before crashing into the sea. The Times reports that activity around a Russian base in the remote Novaya Zemlya archipelago strongly resembles that seen before Burevestnik tests in 2017 and 2018.

Frederick Hauge, head of the Bellona Foundation, an environmental NGO based in Norway, told the Barents Observer last month that the group is very worried about releases of radiation in an explosion or other malfunction. "The entire archipelago is closed and no outsiders can get independent information about what happens," he said. That includes "information about tests and accidents causing radioactive releases." Hauge said Rosatom, Russia's state nuclear corporation, has become more militarized since Russia invaded Ukraine last year. (Read more Russia stories.)

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