GEAR & TECH

Why the new Russian missile may just be hype

Okay, by now, you've probably heard that Russian President (seemingly for life) Vladimir Putin recently unveiled some new nuclear weapons. He made some big claims about them, but let's be honest, it's really just a lot of hype since these systems are still in development.


Putin claims that the systems cannot be intercepted by American missile-defense systems being deployed to protect NATO. The freshly revealed nuclear systems include an underwater drone capable of attacking American ships or harbors, a nuclear-powered cruise missile, and a hypersonic weapon.

Russia's new underwater drone is apparently launched from an Oscar-class submarine. (Wikimedia Commons photo by RIA Novosti)

Putin claimed that the new Russian systems were developed in response to American efforts to develop a missile defense system, but it seems as though at least one of these weapons may not be ready for prime time. Reports claim that the nuclear-powered cruise missile has crashed on several test flights in the Arctic. Russia's long-range underwater drone also remains in the research and development phase.

America may already be on the road to neutralizing the nuclear cruise missile and the hypersonic weapon. The United States has deployed a laser weapon system on ships like the San Antonio-class amphibious ship USS Portland (LPD 27). Other lasers have been tested on the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter and ground mountings and there are plans to deploy lasers on fighter jets and a UH-60 Blackhawk airframe. In one test, using a ground-based laser system, defenses shot down five drones.

A hypersonic weapon traveling at Mach 20 has about as much chance of evading a laser as this drone did.
(U.S. Navy photo)

Lasers travel at the speed of light, roughly 186,000 miles per second. By comparison, Russia's hypersonic weapon, purportedly capable of traveling Mach 20, would reach a speed of 15,225 miles per hour. With the United States turning to lasers, there's little chance Russian weapons will outpace American defenses.

In short, the United States has already made huge strides in developing an effective defense against two of Russia's allegedly "invincible" weapons.