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Pentagon says Russia tested nuclear-powered cruise missile twice – both tests failed

Russia test-fired an ICBM on Friday, March 30, 2018. (Screen Shot/Russian Defense Ministry/Twitter)
April 05, 2018

Two recent experimental Russian military tests proved unsuccessful, according to U.S. intelligence agencies, The Washington Free Beacon recently reported, after failing to initiate the required nuclear power source.

The tests involved nuclear-powered cruise missiles in the Russian arctic near the island of Novaya Zemlya, where a Russian air base and nuclear testing site is stationed.

Pentagon officials explained that both tests failed to demonstrate the use of a nuclear reactor to fuel long-range flight. During both tests, the nuclear power source “didn’t light,” according to one defense official. The missiles ended up crash-landing, and the demonstration raised concerns that Russia ultimately might have created nuclear fallout from the impact, either in the ocean or on arctic land.

U.S. officials have known about the existence of the nuclear cruise missiles for at least year, though Russian President Vladimir Putin only recently announced a handful of these new strategic weapons publicly during his March 1 speech to the country. Putin bragged that these types of new weapons were powerful strategic countermeasures to U.S. defenses.

“One of these is the creation of a small-size super-powerful nuclear power plant placed inside a cruise missile like our latest airborne missile Kh-101 or the U.S. Tomahawk, yet with a flight range tens of times greater and, in effect, unlimited,” Putin said during his speech.

“The low-flying, stealth cruise missile with a nuclear warhead with a practically unlimited range, unpredictable flight path and the ability to bypass interception lines is invulnerable to all existing and future missile defense and air defense systems,” he added.

While Russia has continued to test countless new military weapons and seems determined to expand its nuclear program, U.S. officials stressed that these types of tests can prove extraordinarily dangerous.

“If the missile had ignited and then failed, they would have had a disaster on their hands,” former Pentagon nuclear weapons expert Mark Schneider said, according to the Free Beacon.

“My view is that this weapon is insane,” Schneider said. “It is going to cause a nuclear disaster in testing. What do they plan to do? Dump it into the deep ocean at the end of a successful test? Even if they can soft land it with parachutes, the reactor will melt down because it won’t have any cooling.”

On the possibility of a catastrophic failure, Schneider stressed that these tests could cause potentially irreversible damage.

“There would be significant radiation release,” Schneider said. “Depending where the wind was blowing, it might end up in eastern and western Europe. In my view, Russia should be subject to serious economic sanctions for this system”