Note to Russia: Your doomsday weapons need better rollouts if they’re supposed to be scary.
The Tuesday debut of an experimental Russian Intercontinental Ballistic Missile went all wrong, when the never-before-seen ICBM variant fell back to Earth shortly after its launch from the Plesetsk cosmodrome.
An anonymous Russian military source told state-run news that the test was intended to try out a new warhead for Russia’s new modified ICBMs — the RS-24 and the Topol-M, made by Moscow’s Institute for Thermal Technologies. “The new multiple warhead section would upgrade the capabilities of this missile to take on future missile defense systems.” Vladimir Yevseyev, Director of Russia’s Center for Public and Political Research, speculated that the missile was upgraded to carry a heavier payload. The extra capability, he said, would allow it to carry a range of counter-missile defense capabilities.
Moscow has taken some fairly vocal exception to American missile defense efforts in these past years, including an attempt to build a European missile shield against the prospect of Iranian ballistic missiles. If claims about the experimental ICBM’s new capabilities are true, they’re likely designed to help Russia thumb its nose at America’s missile defense efforts.
The test, however, “is not unexpected,” Tom Collina, research director at the Arms Control Association, tells Danger Room. “They’re phasing out a number of their missile systems,” says Collina, and the latest test is likely part of Russia’s effort to modernize its missile arsenal.
Back in March, Russia’s missile designers promised to roll out a brand spanking new ICBM by 2013. Boss-for-life Vladimir Putin also pledged to invest $2.6 billion into ballistic missile production.
But Russia hasn’t had a lot of luck lately getting new missiles off the ground. It flubbed 7 out of 16 tests for its submarine-launched Bulava missiles, at one point giving residents in Norway a frightening and unexpected fireworks show as a Bulava careened overhead.