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Putin’s nucler-powered cruise-missiles can’t fly

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IT was released amid much fanfare by Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was supposed to be a new cruise missile capable of flying anywhere on Earth. But it has some bugs to iron out yet, it seems.

US intelligence agencies are reporting the nuclear-powered cruise missile has crashed in each of its four tests between November last year and February.

The most successful lasted just two minutes — covering about 35km — before it tumbled into the ground. The least successful flew just four seconds.

Moscow emphatically denies such an embarrassment ever happened.

President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the reports as propaganda: “Listen to the president of Russia Vladimir Putin and believe him,” he said.

It certainly looked impressive in the promos.

Slick computer graphics. Tantalising footage. Tons of technobabble.

It was all part of a lavish presentation in the lead-up to Russia’s presidential elections earlier this year.

But US intelligence says the cruise missile’s nuclear-powered engine has repeatedly failed to start.

In March, Putin presented to the world a line-up of six new ‘super weapons’ that were ‘invulnerable to enemy interception’.

They included new ballistic missiles intended to evade defences. It could carry new guided hypersonic warheads. There was an aircraft-carried hypervelocity missile. A submarine-launched nuclear torpedo. And a cruise missile with a nuclear engine capable of taking it anywhere in the world.

It doesn’t yet have a name.

“Since its range is unlimited, it can manoeuvre as long as you want. No one in the world has anything like that,” Putin declared. “It may appear someday, but by that time we will develop something new.”

The accompanying presentation showed the missile weaving its way between radar stations in the mid Atlantic, passing around South America’s Cape Horn and worming its way up towards Hawaii.

On takeoff, the cruise missile is boosted into the sky by conventional fuels. Once at a suitable height and speed, a nuclear-powered engine takes over.

The idea is to give the missile unlimited range.

This is advantageous in itself: even intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) find it difficult to reach every corner of the globe.

The capability could also be used to evade defences.

It could allow surprise attacks from unexpected directions.

It could give its operators plenty of time to ‘loiter’, awaiting further instructions.

But it all seems rather unnecessary when the chances of destroying even existing ICBMs is so very low.

Russia’s remaining ‘invincible’ nuclear weapons are continuing to undergo testing.

Putin remains confident: he has proudly praised the scientists behind his new weapons as ‘the heroes of our time’.

The ‘Avangard’ hypersonic glider, intended to deliver nuclear warheads via ICBM, is due to enter service in 2020.

The ‘Kinzhal’ (Dagger) aircraft-carried hypersonic cruise missile has featured at Moscow’s military parade this year, as well as on several propaganda videos.

Its underwater drone-torpedo, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead at high speeds over significant distances, remains a closely guarded secret.

“I want to tell all those who have fuelled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: all what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened,” Putin declared.

“You have failed to contain Russia.”

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