Russian President Vladimir Putin has a new saber to rattle — a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile designed to update the Kremlin’s nuclear quiver, and reportedly almost ready for deployment.
The missile — called the RS-28 Sarmat by Russia and ominously dubbed the “Satan II” by NATO — is designed to carry up to 15 nuclear warheads, five more than the outgoing Soviet-era R-36M “Satan.”
The missile is liquid fueled, and categorized as a “super-heavy” ICBM — one with enough lifting capacity to deliver multiple warheads arranged in a so-called multiple independently targeted reentry vehicle. In other words, one missile can theoretically hit as many as 15 nearby targets.
The missile is designed to be fired from the existing R-36M silos with minimal modification.
When the missile was put through its paces during a test in April — striking mock targets at a range of 3,000 miles — Dmitry Rogozin, head of the state Roscosmos agency overseeing the missile’s construction, called the Sarmat a “superweapon.”
The Kremlin claims its design — which includes a shorter “boost phase” during the rocket’s launch and supposedly novel trajectories — will make it harder for US missile defenses to intercept the Sarmat in the event of a thermonuclear war.
The missile is also equipped to carry hypersonic munitions in its warhead, according to Russian reports — effectively making the ICBM a cruise-missile launch platform.
Putin claimed in April that the Sarmat “is capable of overcoming all modern means of anti-missile defense,” and that Russia’s enemies should “think twice” before issuing threats.
But the Sarmat, which Putin claims is coming soon, is already years behind schedule.
The missile was first announced in 2014 with a planned deployment date of 2020. But problems with the missile’s engines delayed proper testing, Russian news agency Interfax reported.
Testing began in earnest in 2018, and by 2020, the Kremlin announced the weapon would be deployed by 2022. After April’s test launch, Roscosmos claimed the missile would see service “no later than the fall of 2022,” according to Interfax.
As of last month, however, the missile was still in testing.