9M730 Burevestnik

Summary

The 9M730 Burevestnik (Russian: Буревестник; "Storm petrel", NATO reporting name: SSC-X-9 Skyfall)[2][3][4] is a Russian low-flying, nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile under development for the Russian Armed Forces.[2] According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the missile's range is effectively unlimited.[5][6]

9M730 Burevestnik
TypeNuclear-powered cruise missile
Place of originRussia
Service history
In serviceUnder development
Specifications
Length12 m[1]

Effective firing rangeEffectively unlimited (due to nuclear powering)
WarheadThermonuclear
Satellite imagery of the launch site

The Burevestnik is one of the six new Russian strategic weapons unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 1 March 2018.[4][7] This effort bears similarity to the discontinued US Project Pluto from 1957, which although functional, was perceived as too provocative, less effective than ICBMs, and presented radiological emissions that made scheduling test flights difficult.[8]

External videos
video icon Nuclear-powered cruise missile with unlimited range on YouTube
video icon "Burevestnik" cruise missile in a manufacturing plant on YouTube

History

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Motivation

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A cruise missile has the advantage over a ballistic missile of being able to fly under and around missile defense radars and interceptors.[9] However, conventional jet-propelled missiles have a limited flight time and range. Power from nuclear fission offers far more energy from a given mass of fuel which, if it could be used for propulsion, would hypothetically allow a missile to be launched far outside the defensive zone of a target, to take a circuitous route that avoids defenses, and to loiter for an extended period. The United States developed a SLAM nuclear-powered cruise missile during the 1950s, achieving successful full power testing of Tory II-A and -C but abandoned the project, in part due to the radioactive pollution that would result from deployment.

Development

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The Russian defense industry began developing an intercontinental-range nuclear-powered cruise missile capable of penetrating any interceptor-based missile defense system. It is said to have unlimited range and can evade missile defenses.[5] A significant stage of trials of the Burevestnik complex's cruise missile, the nuclear power unit tests, was completed in January 2019.[10][better source needed]

The cruise missile received the name Burevestnik (which translates as Storm petrel, a seabird) as a result of an open vote on the Ministry of Defence of Russia's website.[11][12]

Design speculation

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According to Vladimir Putin and the Russian Ministry of Defense, the missile's dimensions are comparable to the Kh-101 cruise missile, but the claimed operational range is orders of magnitude greater than that of the Kh-101. It is equipped with a small-sized nuclear power unit. An official presentation shows that the missile starts from an inclined launcher using a detachable rocket booster.[13]

Pavel Ivanov from VPK-news states that the cruise missile is one and a half to two times the size of the Kh-101, and the wings of the Burevestnik are rooted "on top of the fuselage, rather than below it like on the Kh-101." He also notes that there are "characteristic protrusions where air is most likely heated by the nuclear reactor". According to Ivanov, the mass of the Burevestnik is "several times to order of magnitude" greater than that of the Kh-101, which eliminates Tu-160 and Tu-95 as potential carriers of the missile.[14]

According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Burevestnik is a nuclear thermal rocket with a solid-fueled booster engine. The length of the missile is 12 m (39 ft) at launch and 9 m (30 ft) in flight. The nose has the shape of an "ellipse 1 m (3.3 ft) × 1.5 m (4.9 ft) in size".[15]

Military expert Anton Lavrov, in the Izvestia article, suggested that the design of the Burevestnik uses a ramjet engine, which, unlike the more traditional propulsion systems for nuclear weapons, will have radioactive exhaust throughout its entire operation.[16]

Stratfor, an American geopolitical intelligence platform, assumes that Burevestnik utilizes a turbojet engine and a liquid-fueled booster.[17]

According to James Hockenhull, the UK's Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI), the Burevestnik is a "sub-sonic nuclear-powered cruise missile system which has global reach and would allow attack from unexpected directions." Per Hockenhull, the missile would have "a near indefinite loiter time".[18]

Nyonoksa radiation accident

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On 9 August 2019, the Russian nuclear energy agency Rosatom confirmed a release of radioactivity at the State Central Navy Testing Range at Nyonoksa near Severodvinsk in northern Russia and stated it was linked to an accident involving the test of an "isotope power source for a liquid-fuelled rocket engine".[19][20] Five weapons scientists were killed in the accident.[21] Nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis and Federation of American Scientists fellow Ankit Panda suspect the incident resulted from a test of the Burevestnik cruise missile.[22] However, other arms control experts disputed the assertions: Ian Williams of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and James Acton of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace expressed skepticism over Moscow's financial and technical capabilities to field the weapon,[23] while Michael Kofman of the Wilson Center concluded that the explosion was probably not related to Burevestnik but instead to the testing of another military platform.[24]

According to CNBC, the explosion occurred during an attempt to recover a missile from the seabed, which was lost during a previously failed test.[25] On 10 October, Thomas DiNanno, member of the United States delegation to the United Nations General Assembly First Committee, stated that the "August 8th 'Skyfall' incident [...] was the result of a nuclear reaction that occurred during the recovery of a Russian nuclear-powered cruise missile", which "remained on the bed of the White Sea since its failed test early last year".[26]

On 26 August 2019, Aleksei Karpov, Russia's envoy to international organizations in Vienna, stated that the accident was linked to the development of weapons which Russia had to begin creating as "one of the tit-for-tat measures in the wake of the United States' withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty".[27]

On 21 November 2019, at the ceremony of presentation of posthumous awards to the dead men's families, Vladimir Putin stated that the scientists killed in the explosion on 8 August had been testing an “unparalleled” weapon: “We are talking about the most advanced and unparalleled technical ideas and solutions about weapons design to ensure Russia’s sovereignty and security for decades to come". He also noted that the "weapon is to be perfected regardless of anything".[28][29][30]

Test flights

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On 5 October 2023, Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed that the missile had been successfully flight tested, though Western media sources such as the BBC cast doubt on this claim noting that there was no independent confirmation.[31][32][33]

Operators

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See also

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References

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  1. ^ "Russia claims to have successfully tested its nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile: All you need to know about 9M730 Burevestnik". The Times of India. 6 October 2023.
  2. ^ a b Trakimavičius, Lukas. "The Future Role of Nuclear Propulsion in the Military" (PDF). NATO Energy Security Centre of Excellence. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2021-10-18. Retrieved 2021-10-15.
  3. ^ Panda, Ankit [@nktpnd] (20 November 2018). "Update from a source: Russia's Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile has a NATO designator – SSC-X-9 SKYFALL. (USIC also calls this missile the KY30.)" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  4. ^ a b "Russian nuclear engineers buried after 'Skyfall nuclear' blast". Al Jazeera. 13 August 2019. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  5. ^ a b Lendon, Brad (20 July 2018). "Russia shows off new weapons after Trump summit". CNN. Retrieved 2018-07-20.
  6. ^ "What is the Burevestnik missile that Putin says Russia has tested?". Reuters.
  7. ^ Gady, Franz-Stefan (2 March 2018). "Russia Reveals 'Unstoppable' Nuclear-Powered Cruise Missile". The Diplomat. Retrieved 2018-07-20.
  8. ^ Harkins, Hugh (2019). SLAM, Project Pluto and the Uninhabited Nuclear Powered Bomber. London: Centurion Publishing. pp. 25–26. ISBN 978-1-903630-50-1. OCLC 1286799595.
  9. ^ Lewis, Jeffrey (August 18, 2021). "Russia Resumes Burevestnik Testing". Arms Control Wonk. Retrieved February 25, 2024. The "Skyfall" is one of a number of new Russian strategic weapons designed to defeat U.S. missile defenses. Using a nuclear reactor would, in principle, give the cruise missile unlimited range to fly under and around US missile defense radars and interceptors.
  10. ^ "Tests of Burevestnik nuclear powered cruise missile successfully completed, says source". TASS. 16 February 2019. Retrieved 2019-08-13.
  11. ^ "Россияне выбрали названия для новейшего отечественного оружия" (in Russian). «РИА Новости». 23 March 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  12. ^ Osborn, Andrew (23 March 2018). "Russia names Putin's new 'super weapons' after a quirky public vote". Reuters. Retrieved 2018-07-20.
  13. ^ "Послание Президента Федеральному Собранию". kremlin.ru (in Russian). 1 March 2018. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  14. ^ Иванов, Павел. ""Буревестник" знает, куда летит". «Military Industrial Courier (in Russian). Archived from the original on 20 December 2019. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  15. ^ Александр Шарковский (17 February 2019). "Ядерный "Буревестник" стал реальностью" (in Russian). Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
  16. ^ Антон Лавров (26 February 2019). "Хвост "Буревестника"" (in Russian). Izvestia.
  17. ^ "Russia's New Arms Give the U.S. Room for Pause". Stratfor. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  18. ^ "Russian nuclear-powered cruise missile could 'circle the globe for years'". The Daily Telegraph. 13 September 2020. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  19. ^ Roth, Andrew (10 August 2019). "Russian nuclear agency confirms role in rocket test explosion". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019-08-10.
  20. ^ Kramer, Andrew E. (10 August 2019). "Russia Confirms Radioactive Materials Were Involved in Deadly Blast". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-08-10.
  21. ^ "Russian scientists killed in missile test explosion were working on 'new weapons'". The Defense Post. 12 August 2019. Retrieved 2019-08-16.
  22. ^ Landay, Jonathan (10 August 2019). "U.S.-based experts suspect Russia blast involved nuclear-powered missile". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2019-08-11. Retrieved 2019-08-12.
  23. ^ "Is Russia's Doomsday Missile Fake News?". Foreign Policy. 22 August 2019.
  24. ^ Michael Kofman (15 August 2019). "Mystery explosion at Nenoksa test site: it's probably not Burevestnik".
  25. ^ Macias, Amanda (21 August 2019). "US intel report says mysterious Russian explosion was triggered by recovery mission of nuclear-powered missile, not a test". CNBC. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  26. ^ "2019 UN General Assembly First Committee of the United States of America General Debate Statement by Thomas G. DiNanno" (PDF). statements.unmeetings.org. 10 October 2019. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 October 2019. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
  27. ^ Kramer, Andrew E. (26 August 2019). "Russia Identifies 4 Radioactive Isotopes From Nuclear Accident". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  28. ^ "Putin vows to perfect mystery rocket after engine blast". BBC. 22 November 2019. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  29. ^ "Putin Says 'Unparalleled' Weapons Tested at Deadly Nuclear Accident Site". The Moscow Times. 22 November 2019. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  30. ^ "Путин рассказал о погибших в Северодвинске, создававших уникальное оружие". RIA Novosti (in Russian). 21 November 2019. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  31. ^ "Putin makes nuclear-powered Burevestnik missile test claim". BBC.
  32. ^ "Putin says Russia has tested next-generation nuclear weapon". The Daily Telegraph. 5 October 2023. Retrieved 5 October 2023.
  33. ^ "Russia has tested a nuclear-powered missile and could revoke a global atomic test ban, Putin says". The Daily Telegraph. 5 October 2023. Retrieved 5 October 2023.
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  • Digges, Charles (12 August 2019). "Russia says small nuclear reactor blew up in deadly Arctic accident". Bellona Foundation.
  • Digges, Charles (19 August 2019). "Russian doctors not warned patients came from mysterious radioactive blast, says report". Bellona Foundation.
  • Digges, Charles (20 August 2019). "Russian radiation detectors went dark in wake of mysterious explosion". Bellona Foundation.
  • "Ракета 9М730 / Крылатая ракета с ЯЭУ". militaryrussia.ru (in Russian). 4 March 2018.
  • "Крылатая ракета неограниченной дальности с ядерной энергетической установкой" [Nuclear-powered cruise missile with unlimited range] (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2022-04-03. Retrieved 2019-11-28. - MoD of the Russian Federation official website.