Russia has faced numerous delays in building its "Satan 2" nuclear missile said to be capable of taking out entire countries at once, but another devastating weapon of mass destruction system may soon be in the works as well.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Thursday that Moscow's defense ministry was immediately prepared to begin work on both the oft-delayed RS-28 Sarmat (NATO calls it the SS-X-30 "Satan 2") and on the Barguzin railroad combat missile complex, a train system said to be able to deliver nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to targets thousands of miles away. Both weapons, which have origins in the country's Soviet past, may soon be resurrected amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington—if Russia's government and technological capabilities allow.
The RS-28 Sarmat and Barguzin are "on the level of absolute readiness...for their implementation, should the relevant decision be made to include the projects in the state armament program," Rogozin told Pravda, the official newspaper of Russia's Communist Party.
The RS-28 Sarmat can reportedly hold up to 10 nuclear warheads, enough to effectively decimate an area the size of the entire state of Texas, or even the whole of France. Despite Rogozin's remarks, however, the missile's production has been continuously delayed since being announced in 2014, and Russia's Defense Ministry last week said testing would be further postponed until later this year, according to another report by Pravda. The missile is intended to replace the R-36 Voevoda, dubbed "Satan" by NATO in the 1970s. It was supposed to enter service between 2019 and 2020, but setbacks and bugs may affect this projection.
The Barguzin is also said to be an improvement on a previous design, known to NATO as "Scalpel." Earlier versions of the railroad-based weapon were first considered in the 1960s and later developed in the 1980s, but the systems were largely forgotten after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now the so-called ghost trains may be brought back to life, as a new and improved nuclear weapons system capable of traveling across the largest country on Earth, significantly protecting it from detection. The Barguzin can reportedly be equipped with up to six 55-ton RS-24 Yars thermonuclear ICBMs, an upgrade from the previous three, and it could be seen in the field by 2019, according to The National Interest. Missile testing for the weapons system reportedly took place in November.
With an estimated 7,300 and 6,970 warheads, Russia and the U.S, have the largest and second-largest nuclear weapons arsenals in the world, respectively. These massive nuclear stockpiles were largely developed amid a post-World War II arms race that saw the world's leading superpowers compete for global military dominance. The rivalry cooled after the fall of the Soviet Union, but has picked up again in recent years as the U.S. backs Western military alliance NATO in a regional battle of influence with Russia over the political future of Europe.
Amid these deteriorated relations, President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met Friday for the first time during the highly anticipated G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. The two vowed to cooperate more closely on various issues, such as their countries' roles in the conflict in Syria and cyber crime, which the U.S. frequently accuses the Kremlin of sponsoring. In December, Trump and Putin separately called for the expansion of their respective nuclear weapons arsenals.
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