Vladimir Putin just all but confirmed the existence of a Russian ‘doomsday’ nuclear weapon

Only people in cities near the water need to be concerned. Picture: 20th Century Fox
  • During his annual state of the nation address in Moscow on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted about the country’s nuclear might.
  • In doing so he seemed to confirm the existence of a long-feared Russian doomsday device.
  • The weapon is a torpedo that has been reported to carry a nuclear warhead.
  • Radiation from the weapon could render large swaths of Earth uninhabitable for years.
  • Russia has previously let images of this device leak, and the US seemed to know about it before Thursday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday boasted about his country’s nuclear might – and seemed to confirm the existence of a long-feared Russian doomsday device.

Putin turned toward offensive nuclear-capable systems near the end of his annual, wide-ranging state of the nation address in Moscow, in which he also said Russia needed to spend heavily on improving conditions for average Russians.

Putin described at least five new weapons systems, emphasising how each could defeat US missile defences and characterising nearly all of them as nuclear-capable.

But in typical fashion, Putin’s descriptions contained wild, scientifically unimaginable claims about how great the weapons were.

A computer-generated animation accompanied each weapon announcement, perhaps illustrating that they exist mainly in a conceptual state.

First, Putin mentioned a new intercontinental ballistic, which he claimed had unlimited range and could get past all US missile defences.

An animation showed the missile taking two trajectories toward the West. Without showing much real video of the product, Putin said “our defence companies have launched mass production of this new system.”

Next, Putin announced what he called a “global cruise missile,” which he claimed had unlimited range and was nuclear-propelled.

An animation showed the missile fired from Russia’s north, flying north of Europe into the Atlantic, weaving through US air-defence zones, and then inexplicably travelling south the entire length of the Atlantic Ocean before wrapping around Argentina and ending up near Chile.

The doomsday device

Russian status 6 nuclear torpedo dirty bomb
A briefing slide, seen previously on Russian television, showing what Putin described Thursday as a nuclear torpedo. BBC

Then, Putin seemed to confirm a long-feared “doomsday” weapon: an unmanned, undersea vehicle capable of carrying a nuclear weapon across oceans at high speeds.

Previous reports of the weapon have stated it may be a dirty bomb, or a nuclear weapon with additional metal in its core to keep radiation in the atmosphere for years.

The undersea weapon’s concept has been mocked as an over-the-top system with little purpose other than destroying massive swaths of human life.

Russia may have intentionally leaked images of it in 2015, because it’s suspected that a major purpose of this weapon would be to deter attacks on Russia. The animation of the system showed it striking both US Navy formations and a coastal city.

Putin said the undersea weapon was successfully tested in December 2016, and the US intelligence community seems to have been aware of it, as such a weapon was mentioned in President Donald Trump’s recent review of US nuclear policy.

Other crazy weapons

Chinese Hypersonic Glide Vehicle
Concept art of the WU-14, a Chinese hypersonic glide vehicle. Wikimedia commons

Putin then discussed a hypersonic plane-launched, nuclear-capable missile and showed it hitting US Navy ships.

The US, Russia, China, and others are working on hypersonic weapons designed to defeat today’s defences by flying at many times the speed of sound.

Finally, Putin talked up Russian laser weapons, showing a brief video of an electronic system with lenses pivoting on the back of a truck. He provided little detail about the system.

For many of the systems, Putin asked Russian citizens to send in suggestions for their names. He used the opportunity to stoke Russian pride by saying the systems were not reworkings of Soviet designs but had been developed in the past few years.

“They kept ignoring us,” Putin said of the West, to a standing ovation. “Nobody wanted to listen to us, so listen to us now.”