The Russian military may be encountering unexpected delays in expanding its nuclear arsenal. Testing of the RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, also known as the ‘Satan 2,’ was scheduled for this April, but have been delayed until later this year. The Satan 2 is the centerpiece of Russian plans to expand their nuclear arsenal. Repeated delays in its development and testing suggest Russia is struggling to modernize its nuclear forces.
“[Silo launch] testing of the Sarmat from the Plesetsk launch facility in March won’t happen,”an unidentified source in Russia’s defense industry told the TASS news agency. “It has been shifted back to the second quarter of 2017, likely in April.”
Russia currently has the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet. It is believed that the Russians possess at least 7,300 nuclear warheads. The United States has the second largest nuclear arsenal, with 6,970 nuclear weapons. The Satan 2 is designed give to Russians an edge not only in total quantity, but also destructive power per missile.
The Satan 2 will be able to carry up to 10 nuclear warheads per missile. The United States’ counterpart, the Minuteman III, can only carry up to three warheads. Last year, Russian Defense Ministry’s Zvezda news agency claimed the Sarmat will be so powerful that a single missile could penetrate Washington’s defenses and wipe out the entire state of Texas.
The TASS news agency claims that additional testing of new hardware in the missile’s test stands delayed testing, implying that the delay was not caused by the missile itself. They were not able to confirm this theory with Russian officials. Critics of the Russian nuclear program claim the government’s reluctance to comment on the delay indicates an issue with the nuclear system, not the test stands.