A new type of Russian nuclear weapon could spark a devastating arms race, a military expert has warned.
Last week, Vladimir Putin showed off a range of new missiles including hypersonic nukes designed to evade missile defences.
It’s fair to say The Kremlin’s weapons didn’t leave enemies quaking in their boots, with the bizarre press event slammed as a domestic political exercise rather than a genuine display of military might.
But an analyst at the Royal Services Royal United Services Institute has said the only ‘genuinely new’ missile announced by Putin could kick off an arms race.
Igor Sutyagin, research fellow, spent 11 years in prison on espionage charges in Russia before taking up his current role.
He said that a missile which can be launched from a military jet (which you can see in the video below) was the only ‘realistic and new’ weapon unveiled by Putin.
The missile is called KH-47M2 Kinzhal and is launched from the belly of a MiG-31 Foxhound. Russia said the missile has already been deployed.
Some observers have said it resembles a modified version of an Iskander missile, which is often said to contravene a Cold War treaty banning ballistic missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5500 kilometres.
Sutyagin slammed most of Putin’s weapons but issued the following warning about the Kinzhal.
‘This is an airborne missile which is banned by treaties,’ he told Metro.co.uk.
‘I have never seen attempts to put universal ballistic missiles on an airborne platform.
‘Putin has crossed another threshold which provokes America to proceed with the development of its own platforms.
‘This is an invitation for disaster.’
The RUSI analyst was scathing in his criticism of Putin’s other weapons, which included a nuclear engine-powered cruise missile.
Cruise missiles work by flying relatively close to the ground rather than zooming into space like a ballistic missile.
But the analyst said this would spread radiation over a huge area when tested and compared the potential contamination to ‘another Chernobyl’.
He said Russia’s claim to have developed a nuclear cruise missile was ‘fiction’ and said it was too expensive to build such a weapon.
‘Even if it was possible, it would be cheaper to send squadrons to drop bricks made of gold on New York,’ he said.
Of course, the question on the lips of most westerners is simple: will Putin nuke us?
Probably not, was Sutyagin’s answer.
He told us that the unveiling of the weapons and the ‘cartoon’ film used to promote them were designed to make him look like a tough guy in Russia and persuade his enemies to take him seriously.
‘He wants to secure a seat at the high table,’ Sutyagin continued.
‘To do this, you do not destroy the table.
‘He’s not planning nuclear armageddon.’
‘What he showed looked silly. This was not a show of strength.’
Russia’s Aerospace Force Commander-in-Chief Sergei Surovikin said the Kinzhal system ‘substantially boosts the capabilities of the Russian Aerospace Force to respond to any possible act of aggression against our country and along with other strategic weapon systems will help deter possible adversaries from rushing headlong into action’.
‘The missile’s manoeuvring at speeds exceeding the speed of sound by several times allows it to reliably breach all air defence and anti-ballistic missile defence systems that exist or are being developed,’ he added.