Written by By Nicholas Nehamas, CNN
Russia’s Defense Ministry is to conduct a series of ground tests of a nuclear-powered hypersonic missile that could allow the country to hit targets with a nuclear warhead on the scale of the Manhattan Project.
The test-firing of the hypersonic missile, which has a strike range of more than 8,000 miles, comes three years after the Russian defense minister first revealed plans to produce the highly advanced weapon.
The plan for the Soviet Union to build its own version of the Manhattan Project dates back to the waning days of the USSR, when weapons experts debated whether Russia could build a weapon that would be able to carry out the threat of a nuclear attack.
A Soviet search document from 1968, which was released by the Russian newspaper Izvestia, claimed that the US had a hypersonic attack weapon which had a potential range of more than 10,000 miles.
Then, in 2017, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu revealed in an interview with the TASS news agency that Russia had been planning a new weapon capable of carrying out a strike on similar dimensions.
Shoigu went on to show the ministry’s new weapon, a nuclear-powered cruise missile that had a strike range of 8,000 miles, in an internal video.
The defence ministry said in a statement that the first test was planned for Sunday.
“The test will be conducted over the Atlantic Ocean, toward Europe. No losses are expected,” it said.
The planned test for the weapon, known by its Russian acronym Tsirkon, was first reported by The Siberian Times, and the report said tests would be carried out in different layers of the atmosphere.
The missile, an adapted version of the Agile HZ missile, which was first developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and was then transferred to the Russian military in the 1990s, has a range of around 7,200 miles.
The missile was designed by Miroslav Slutsky, director of the Centre for Radar and Weapons Research, to represent the test of the “new” USA-Type Mir, the country’s most advanced modern missile.
The timing of the test is in keeping with a pre-dawn initiation of tests ordered by the Russian military just weeks ago, when a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile took to the skies, just as the launch of the new London bomber added an extra dose of fear to Russia’s relations with the United Kingdom.