By Anthony Ruggiero, Bradley Bowman and John Hardie
Russia conducted its first flight test of the RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile on April 20. The launch represents a notable milestone in Russia’s ongoing nuclear modernization designed to hold the American homeland at risk, underscoring the importance of modernizing the U.S. nuclear triad and associated nuclear command, control and communications system.
Russia’s Defence Ministry announced the Sarmat “was successfully test-launched from a silo at the Plesetsk state testing cosmodrome” in northwestern Russia. The test “confirmed” the missile’s “design characteristics” during “all phases of its flight,” the ministry declared, adding that its “practice warheads arrived at the designated area at the Kura proving ground on the Kamchatka Peninsula.”
Although Russia has conducted three Sarmat ejection tests since December 2017, this latest test was the missile’s first flight test.
The Sarmat is a three-stage, silo-based, liquid-fuel, heavy ICBM with a reported range of 18,000 kilometers. Dubbed “Satan II” by NATO, the missile is a Russian-built replacement of the Soviet-era SS-18 “Satan” ICBM, which is reaching the end of its life cycle. The Sarmat reportedly can carry a 10-ton payload consisting of 10-plus multiple independent reentry vehicles along with penetration aids used to evade missile defenses. Moscow says the new missile can also carry several Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles.
The Sarmat has reportedly been under development since the 2000s but gained notoriety after being publicly touted during a March 2018 address by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader boasted that the Sarmat would be impervious to existing or potential missile defenses thanks to its short boost phase and extremely long range, which would allow the missile to travel over the North or South poles.
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The Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile is launched from Plesetsk in Russia's northwest. (Russian Defence Ministry Press Service via AP)