Putin Just Test-Launched a ‘Satan II’ Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

The Sarmat, dubbed “Satan II” by the West, is a new addition to Russia’s arsenal and is capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads.
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Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin observes the launch of a Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile on April 20, 2022. (Images: RIA/Kremlin Pool)

Russia said it test-fired a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile that Western sources have nicknamed “Satan II”, in the latest case of nuclear saber-rattling from the Kremlin. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday watched a video of the missile blasting off during a virtual meeting with top military officials, then congratulated them on the successful launch. 

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Putin’s remarks left little doubt that the test was explicitly aimed at reminding Western countries that Russia remains a fully-capable nuclear country, at a moment when tensions remain sky-high over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

“This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure Russia's security from external threats and provide food for thought for those who, in the heat of frenzied aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country,” Putin said. 

Military experts call Russia’s nuclear arsenal robust, and say Russia remains fully capable of wreaking massive nuclear destruction pretty much anywhere on earth. Yet Putin also has a long history of bragging about fancy new weapons in ways that don’t stand up to scrutiny. For example, the time Russia once boasted of a missile with supposedly “unlimited range,” which the U.S. assessed to be more like 22 miles

Wednesday’s test involved the RS-28 Sarmat, aka the “Satan II,” which was designed to brute-force its way through U.S. missile defense systems. It’s a liquid-fueled ICBM that’s 119 feet tall and weighs more than 220 tons. The payload alone is 10 tons and capable of fielding 24 separate nuclear missiles.

ICBMs launch into the sky, arc around the planet, and come back down to earth with devastating force. The initial launch of the missile is the boost-phase and the “Satan II” is said to have a boost-phase so short that the U.S. wouldn’t be able to knock it out of the sky. Once it nears its target, the warheads break away. Each of the 24 possible internal warheads in the “Satan II” will be carried on the wings of an Avengard hypersonic glide reentry vehicle, a kind of ballistic missile that can maneuver around enemy defenses.

Putin first announced the weapon during a speech in 2018 where he showed a CGI video of the missile striking Mar-a-Lago.

“The new complex has the highest tactical and technical characteristics and is capable of overcoming all modern means of anti-missile defense. It has no analogues in the world and won't have for a long time to come,” Putin said on Wednesday.

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