Russia is reportedly preparing to conduct tests of its advanced unique weapon, the nuclear-powered cruise missile known as Burewestnik, referred to as “SSC-X-9 Skyfall” by NATO. The term “Burewestnik” translates to “thunderbird”, alluding to the missile’s capabilities as a nuclear-powered cruise missile.
Recent satellite imagery and flight activities at a remote Russian Arctic facility in Novaya Zemlya suggest that preparations for new tests are underway. These activities closely resemble those observed before previous test launches, as analysed by “The New York Times.”
The Burewestnik, powered by a nuclear reactor, is seen as a strategic asset by President Putin. It is considered a “second-strike” weapon, intended to be used if a wave of nuclear attacks has already inflicted significant damage on Russia. These missiles are purported to be equipped with nuclear warheads and have a range of over 20,000 kilometres, theoretically enabling them to circumnavigate half the globe and reach any location in the United States.
However, the practical success of the Burewestnik program appears to have fallen short of its grandiose ambitions. According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, Russia conducted 13 tests of these missiles between 2017 and 2019, all of which ended in failure. The missiles typically crashed within a few kilometres of launch, with the most successful flight lasting only about two minutes.
In 2019, a nuclear explosion occurred at the Russian naval test site in Nyonoksa, which was believed to be linked to a crashed Burewestnik missile retrieval operation. The incident resulted in the tragic deaths of five scientists and two military personnel. Increased radioactivity was also detected in the vicinity of the White Sea. Although former U.S. President Donald Trump speculated on Twitter that the explosion was connected to the notorious Burewestnik, this assertion has yet to be definitively proven.