Watch: Russian Military Tests New Missile-Destroying Rocket for Moscow

The Russian military has announced successful tests of a new rocket designed to nuke any missiles fired towards Moscow, hailing the weapon as a major defense upgrade.

Russia has several programs geared towards modernizing defensive and offensive missile systems as the Kremlin continues to transition away from Soviet-era kit. The Ministry of Defense posted video of the test launch, which took place at Kazakhstan’s Sary Shagan test range.

The latest launch appeared to check the readiness of a “modernized” version of a rocket for Russia’s current anti-missile system, A-135. Reports did not reveal the name of the new item or in what way it outperforms current rockets, but the Air Gorce’s deputy commander told military newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda that the rocket’s success was a leap forward in capability.

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“Its tactical and technical characteristics with regards to range, precision, time frame of use, all significantly surpass firearms that exist in use today,” Colonel Andrey Prikhodko said. “There is no doubt that this anti-missile rocket, just like all elements of the anti-missile defense that are presently undergoing modernization, will be able to carry out their task in providing a reliable defense of their region.” 

Reliable defense could include warding off ballistic missiles, he added.

The system is the formidable line of defense around Moscow—one of the world’s most heavily guarded cities. The A-135 is an upgrade activated in the 1990s to replace the Soviet-era A-35 anti-missile system. A-135 is designed to intercept a strike against the Russian capital by not merely hitting an incoming missile, but potentially detonating a nuclear blast in a general area of the sky.

02_12_anti_missile An air defence system missile flies towards a mock enemy target during the joint Russian-Belarusian military exercises Zapad-2017 (West-2017) at a training ground near the village of Volka, some 200 km southwest of Minsk, on September 19, 2017. Sergei Gapon/AFP/Getty Images

Statistically, such missile defense tactics stand a much better chance of eliminating threats with fewer anti-missile rockets fired but there are significant risks. A higher elevation blast, while avoiding close contact with Moscow residents, could cause electromagnetic interference with satellites or energy supply.  Russia’s most popular city is perpetually surrounded by 68 nuclear missiles, which would exponentially raise the impact of any fire or mishap.

During the Cold War, the United States and Russia struck an arms control deal to limit the number of defensive weapons each side had, which spurred additional investment in offensive weapons. Per the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, each side was allowed to keep a site of its choice. Absent Moscow's level of centralized national government and population density, Washington chose to guard its formidable arsenal at a base in North Dakota before shutting the program down in 1975. Russia retained its program throughout the Cold War.