PUTIN’S hypersonic nuclear strike weapons will be impossible for an enemy to track and shoot down, an expert has warned.
By LAURA O’CALLAGHAN
PUBLISHED: 07:00, Sat, Aug 1, 2020
Moscow’s strongman president has said the Russian Navy will soon be beefed up with the sophisticated weapons as well as underwater nuclear drones, which the defence ministry said were in their final phase of testing. President Putin, who this month tightened his grip on power following a public vote which allows him to remain in office until 2036, has insisted he does not want an arms race. However, he has often spoken of a new generation of unrivalled Russian nuclear weapons which could hit targets anywhere on the planet.
Dr Dan Plesch, an expert in weapons of mass destruction, has said the UK and its Western allies should take note of Mr Putin’s latest comments made at an annual navy parade in St Petersburg on Sunday.
The academic, of SOAS University of London, warned the “existential threat of global nuclear devastation” remains, 30 years after the Cold War ended.
Dr Plesch told Express.co.uk: “Adding on yet more dangerous and destabilising and fast weapons just makes an existing extremely dangerous situation even more dangerous.”
He said hypersonic nuclear weapons would, if deployed, pose significant challenges for enemies in battle due to their sheer speed and manoeuvrability.
Because part of the weapons’ trajectory is in space, this makes them “much harder to track and even hypothetically shoot down”.
Dr Plesch explained: “Assuming they can be made to work reliably, which is always a question with new technologies, they are far faster than existing ballistic missiles.
“These are ballistic missiles, essentially unlike gigantic bullets they have an arc trajectory, and hypersonic missiles essentially fly – broadly speaking – like an aeroplane for a bit, like a cruise function.
“And then they rocket into space and rocket back down to earth.
The idea is the velocity of going up and coming down very fast makes them impossible to track.
“And the Russians believe they face a threat from the American ability to shoot down their, as they would see them, deterrent missiles.
“They see they have a threat to their nuclear deterrent from American smart conventional weapons and for the Russians and the Chinese their real fear is that they could be disarmed by America only using its smart conventional weapons.”
Smart weapons, also known as precision guided weapons (PGMs), rely on computerised guidance systems to reach their target.
Dr Plesch said the underwater nuclear drones mentioned by President Putin would not be as hard to intercept.
While the weapons are extremely powerful, when fired underwater they will inevitably disrupt the water, causing their location to be given away.
He suggested that highly-advanced anti-submarine warfare could possibly have the capabilities to detect such drones.
He added: “It’s the idea of having a gigantic torpedo with a great deal of fuel able to use a nuclear weapon at long distances underwater or at an enemy port or naval base.
“An object going through water inevitably disrupts the water, you can’t stealth that, and so they are potentially relatively much easier – hypothetically – to shoot down than a space missile.”
The weapons which Mr Putin has promised include the Poseidon underwater nuclear drone, designed to be carried by submarines, and the Tsirkon (Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile, which can be deployed on surface ships.
Russia’s leader told crowds at the naval parade on Sunday: “The widespread deployment of advanced digital technologies that have no equals in the world, including hypersonic strike systems and underwater drones, will give the fleet unique advantages and increased combat capabilities.”
He did not specify when the navy would receive the weapons, but suggested it would be sometime in the near future.