In the course of his lengthy annual address to the Russian Federal Assembly this year, President Vladimir Putin excoriated the United States for abandoning the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty while asserting that “the work on promising prototypes and weapon systems that I spoke about in my Address last year continues as scheduled and without disruptions.”
Putin went on to say that Russia had entered serial production of the Avangard hypersonic glide system, which was to be deployed later in 2019. He added that the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, which he asserted was “of unprecedented power,” was in the test stage, as was the Peresvet laser missile and air-defense weapon, likewise to be deployed this year. He noted that the Kinzhal hypersonic ballistic missile, having undergone operational testing, “proved [its] unique characteristics during test and combat alert missions while the personnel learned how to operate them.” Finally, he asserted that the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile “of unlimited range,” and the Poseidon nuclear-powered unmanned underwater vehicle, were successfully undergoing tests.
Since Putin’s speech in February, the work on at least one of those systems has suffered rather serious “disruption.” Despite Putin’s assertion that Burevestnik missile testing was going well, it was that very missile that Western analysts believe was being tested when a nuclear explosion (It was not a nuclear explosion – DEFCON Warning System), first reported earlier this month, killed seven scientists and forced an initial evacuation order for at least one nearby village because of potential exposure to deadly radiation.
Failures in the early or even later stages of systems development are not uncommon. Moreover, the Russians have a high tolerance for test failures; this is not always the case with respect to American weapons development. In any event, Moscow is moving ahead with the development of its other nuclear armed systems and is certain to continue testing the Burevestnik.