Russia is flexing its military muscle as tensions with the US simmer in the wake of a heated third presidential debate, where Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton called Republican candidate Donald Trump a "puppet" for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Now, Russia has declassified the first image of its new thermonuclear intercontinental ballistic missile. Image: Getty
The RS-28 Sarmat missile -- better known as the Satan 2 nuclear missile -- has finally been revealed after years of being hyped by the Russian government. According to a Russian publication aligned with the Kremlin called Sputnik, the super-nuke has a payload capable of destroying an area "the size of Texas".
The new weapon can deploy warheads of 40 megatons, or about 2000 times as powerful as the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagaski in 1945.
Former assistant secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy Dr Paul Craig Roberts called the atomic bombs that Washington dropped on Japan "popguns" compared to today's thermo-nuclear weapons. "One Russian SS-18 wipes out three-fourths of New York state for thousands of years," he said in a blog post. "Five or six of these 'Satans' as they are known by the US military, and the East Coast of the United States disappears."
To make it even more frightening, the Satan 2 is also capable of evading radar defences and could travel far enough to strike the US East and West Coast.
The picture of the rocket was published today by chief designers at Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau. Along with photos of the rocket, the designers included the following statement (roughly translated by Google Translate).
In accordance with the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation: On the state defence order for 2010 and the planning period 2012-2013. JSC SRC Makeyev instructed to begin the development of OCD Sarmat. In June 2011, the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation signed a state contract for OCD Sarmat. Prospective strategic missile systems (RKSN) Sarmat is created in order to secure and effective nuclear deterrent tasks of Russia's strategic forces.
This rough translation can give you at least some insight into how long the engineers have been working on this missile, and it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has been following US-Russia relations. In 2013, Russian announced it would begin deploying a new type of long-range missile to replace its Cold War standby, the original Satan missile. The Satan 2 missile is the realisation of the deployment.
The original Satan missile was developed in the 1970s, as the Soviet Union achieved nuclear parity with the US in the wake of the Cold War. Those missiles are now approaching the end of their service lives. US and Russia both signed treaties in 2010 restricting the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles the countries would keep in reserve, but despite the truce, Russia said it must maintain a strong nuclear deterrent because of the US military involvement in Europe. The Satan 2 will be put into service in late 2018, and Russian officials say it will fully replace the old Satan missiles by 2020.
Russia's decision to suddenly reveal the new missile is especially troubling as tensions between the country and US are flaring up over hacking allegations and conflict in Syria. While we don't expect any immediate military conflicts between the NATO allies, it is certainly upsetting to know that people are actually spending time building such catastrophic weapons.