Last week, Vladimir Putin held a speech in which he announced some spectacular new weapons including supersonic missiles and an intercontinental ballistic missile with nuclear propulsion to give it unlimited range.
Few people are as qualified to comment on the weapon announcements as Michael Kofman. He has just released part 1 in a two-part series about his reflections.
Overall, Kofman’s attitude is that Russia has the capability to develop these weapons, so Putin’s words should be taken seriously:
Mainstream media coverage, and expert opinions have been rather dismissive, and should be taken as cold comfort. Observers are right to say that these technologies will take considerable time to test and deploy, but what many don’t know, because investment in Russian military analysis took a vacation 1992-2014, is actually when testing and development for these weapons began. Since the narrative of a sanctioned, economically weak and decaying Russia tends to prevail, it creates blinders on the issue of military technology. Yes, they can do this, and much of this may become reality in the 2020s. Recall awhile ago when Russian MoD leaked a slide on Status-6 many thought it was a PR stunt, and some kind of joke, until it showed up in the NPR as something less than funny.
In part 1 Kofman looks at:
Kinzhal: An aeroballistic version of the Iskander missile launched from the MiG-31 airplane. It has some remarkable specs. A range of up to 2000 kilometers, a speed of up to mach 10, capable of high-G maneuvers in the terminal phase, and with the option of both conventional and nuclear warheads.
R-28 Sarmat: A liquid fueled heavy intercontinental ballistic missile capable of deploying multiple warheads and penetration aids. It will replace the R-36M2 Voyevoda (SS-18).
Avangard and/or 4202 hypersonic boost glide weapon: A concept involving an ICBM to boost a weapon to a very high altitude from where it glides toward its target and reaches amazing speed (like mach 20).
Kofman has saved the most spectacular of Putin’s announcements to part 2 in his series.
Update on 2018-03-08:
Part two of Kofman’s series is out. In this he looks at:
9M730: An intercontinental ballistic missile with nuclear propulsion. This gives the missile practically unlimited range, but it is also an inherently dirty design which spreads radiation during flight. Russia has launched an online contest to come up with a good name for the missile.
Status-6 Ocean Multipurpose System: A nuclear powered torpedo with a nuclear warhead. This is intended as a threat toward coastal cities in the United States. It will be difficult to build countermeasures against this weapon which for obvious reasons is immune to a missile defense system. It is not a very practical weapon, however, because it will take days to reach its destination. This makes it impossible to control escalation once the weapon is launched. The weapon must be characterized as a revenge weapon which can be used when the war in general is already lost.
Klavesin-2R-PM Unmanned Undersea Vehicle: An underwater drone system which is an evolution of the 1R variant.
Some laser weapon: A rather mysterious laser cannon thing with an unclear purpose.