Russia Touts "Unlimited Range" Of New Nuclear Cruise Missile As INF Unravels

Following the dramatic US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) within the last month and amidst continuing tit-for-tat accusations between Moscow and Washington since then, which even appears to have imperiled the future of the New START treaty, Russia is aggressively touting its new nuclear cruise missile, the 9M730 Burevestnik (or “Storm Petrel”), which Russian media reports say has entered the final stage of testing and development. 

The Kremlin is claiming the nuclear-powered, nuclear-tipped cruise missile has "unlimited" range and advance superior maneuvering capabilities against anti-air defenses. Russian media previously last week reported based on official state sources that the missile’s nuclear power unit was successfully tested in January 2018.

The Russia’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) last summer released production line footage and images of the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear powered cruise missile.

The announcement appears a follow-up to a series of promises that President Putin made back in March of last year at the annual Russian state of the union address, according to TASS, "in a message to the Federal Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia developed a small-sized nuclear power mechanism that can be used in a cruise missile, which will allow it to receive a virtually unlimited range."

At that time Putin also issued what sounded like an implicit threat to the West, explaining before Russian lawmakers that he's repeatedly warned Washington not to go ahead with anti-missile systems that Moscow fears could erode its nuclear deterrent. However "nobody listened to us. Listen now," he said, to a loud ovation from the crowd of legislators, officials, and dignitaries after describing a range of new "hypersonic weapons" the military was pursuing. 

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) followed Putin's statements by releasing video purporting to confirm the hypersonic weapons claims, including what appeared to be a test of the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, though still impossible for analysts to confirm the extent of the truthfulness of the nuclear fueled flight. 

To get a sense of the extent to which Moscow is putting Washington on notice amidst the latest INF controversy, RT touts the missile as "even able to circle around the globe for days, if required."

The Russian media report further summarized the following claimed capabilities, based on military sources:

The military says that its ability to traverse virtually any distance will be coupled with an equally astounding "unlimited ability to maneuver." It will make the missile extremely hard to intercept while penetrating an enemy’s defenses.

If the weapon becomes fully operational, Moscow will be able to launch missiles "from the Asian mainland, program them to cross the Pacific, go around South America, and penetrate US airspace from the Gulf of Mexico," Popular Mechanics wrote earlier this week.

US Tomahawk missiles, by comparison, are designed to hit ranges to within a maximum 2,500km, or 1,550 miles. 

Last October at a speech at the Valdai Club in Sochi, Putin again bragged, "It is a fact of life that we are ahead of all our partners and competitors in this sphere of high precision, hypersonic weapons," he said.

"No one else has that... In that sense, we feel very comfortable, very safe," he added.