A new missile that Russian President Vladimir Putin claims has “unlimited” range has been more impressive in what it might be able to do than what it has done so far.
During a state-of-the-nation address in March, Putin boasted about Russia’s expanding high-tech arsenal of nuclear weapons that he described as “invincible.” Among the weapons Putin showed off were underwater drones capable of launching nuclear strikes and hypersonic missiles that were “invulnerable” to interception.
“The missile’s test-launch and ground trials make it possible to create a brand-new weapon, a strategic nuclear missile powered by a nuclear engine,” Putin said in his March address. “The range is unlimited. It can maneuver for an unlimited period of time. No one in the world has anything similar.”
But U.S. officials told ABC News the missile has yet to prove it was operational. The missile was still in research and development and had crashed in testing more than once, including during a test in the Russian Arctic, a U.S. official told ABC News.
Four test flights between November and February each resulted in a crash, according to sources who spoke to CNBC on the condition of anonymity.
Those same sources said U.S. intelligence determined the longest test flight lasted a little longer than two minutes, with the missile flying 22 miles before losing control and crashing. The shortest test lasted four seconds and flew for five miles.
The weapon, which has been in development since the early 2000s, is believed to use a gasoline-powered engine for takeoff before switching to a nuclear-powered one for flight, intelligence sources told CNBC.
But during the tests, the nuclear-powered part of the missile failed to initiate and couldn’t reach its purported unlimited range, the U.S. intelligence report said.
— 𝕋om 𝕆'ℂonnor (@ShaolinTom) May 22, 2018
Asked Tuesday about the missile’s failures to date, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin should be trusted over the U.S. intelligence community.
“Listen to the president of Russia Vladimir Putin and believe him,” Peskov said, according to the TASS news service.
The new missile is reportedly designed to overcome America’s missile defense systems in NATO countries.
Although the missile has failed in its early tests, U.S. officials told CNBC the new hypersonic missile is expected to be operational by 2020.
Despite the seemingly daunting capabilities of Russia’s new weapons, the Pentagon’s chief spokesperson told reporters the U.S. military is well aware of what Russia is working on.
“The American people should rest assured that we are fully prepared,” the Pentagon’s Dana White said.
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