Hype or Hogwash — Examining Russia’s So-Called “Super Weapons”

Wes O'Donnell
7 min readOct 28, 2023

Earlier this month, Putin announced that Russia conducted a successful test of the 9M730 Burevestnik missile, one of six new ‘wonder’ weapons he announced in 2018.

The Burevestnik missile, NATO reporting name ‘Skyfall’, is a prototype nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered cruise missile.

The idea behind it is that it can stay airborne indefinitely thanks to its nuclear propulsion system.

If Putin’s claims are true, it raises serious questions about how it might be used and what its limitations are. But knowing what we know now about the sorry state of the Russian military, we should view these super weapons with skepticism.

After all, another dictatorship, Hitler’s Germany, thought that wonder weapons would turn the tide of their deteriorating war machine, and that didn’t work out well for them either.

So, let’s take a look at Putin’s super weapons or “супер оружие,” evaluate their purpose and effectiveness, and determine whether they represent an authentic threat, or if they’re just a bunch of hogwash.

RS-28 Sarmat

The Sarmat, unofficially called the Satan II by some media outlets, is a liquid-fueled, MIRV-equipped super-heavy intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in production by the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau since 2009.

MIRV stands for multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles. So one Sarmat could target multiple cities as the MIRVs detach and head to their targets.

Sarmat is intended to replace the R-36M ICBM (SS-18 ‘Satan’) in Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal.

So, what makes the Sarmat special when compared to Russia’s other garden-variety ICBMs?

The Sarmat has a short boost phase which shortens the time when it can be tracked with U.S. satellite infrared sensors. In theory, this gives U.S. decision-makers even less time to decide on a counterstrike.

The Russian military also claims that the Sarmat is immune to any current or prospective missile defense systems. That seems like a claim that can’t possibly be true since Russia can’t know what future defense systems the U.S. will field tomorrow.

Another claimed advantage is the range of the Sarmat — which Russia says is over 18,000 km. In addition, Russia says it can approach the U.S. over the South Pole thus…

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Wes O'Donnell

Army & Air Force Veteran | Global Security guy at War is Boring, GEN, OneZero | Intel Forecaster | Law Student | TEDx Speaker | Pro-Democracy | Pro-Human Rights