World

U.S. Defenses 40 Years Behind Russia’s ‘Satan 2’ Nuclear Missile, Weapon Designer Claims

The United States military is 40 years from being able to counter Russia’s RS-28 Sarmat nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the weapon’s chief designer has claimed.

Vladimir Degtyar, CEO of the Makeye Design Bureau that developed the RS-28 Sarmat—known as the “Satan 2” by NATO—said that the missile’s supposed power will guarantee peace for Russia for decades to come, Russian news agency TASS reported.

In an interview with Konstruktor (meaning “Designer”) magazine, Degtyar claimed the Satan 2 “makes the modern U.S. [anti-ballistic missile] defense systems inefficient, while the Sarmat missile complex will remain effective for the next 40 years” despite the deployment of the U.S. global missile shield.

The RS-28 Sarmat weighs around 220 tons and can carry a nuclear warhead large enough to wipe out an area the size of Texas or France. The missile is being introduced to replace Russia’s Cold War-era RS-36M Voyevoda missiles. Despite multiple delays to the program, Russian defense officials said the weapon would enter serial production in 2020 and will be arming Russian units by 2021.

RussiaSatan2Launch A screenshot from a Russian Ministry of Defense video shows the RS-28 intercontinental ballistic missile in an ejection test on March 30. Russian Ministry of Defense

Unveiling the weapon at his annual state of the nation address, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that the missile “has practically no range restrictions” and can evade “even the most advanced missile defense systems.” The missile can carry 10 to 15 warheads, all of which can target a different location. In the CGI video demonstrating the weapon’s capabilities, warheads were shown falling on an area closely resembling the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

Viktor Bondarev, the head of Russian Senate’s Defense and Security Committee, has claimed that the U.S. would need 500 missiles to defend against one Satan 2.

Though experts are skeptical about some of the more futuristic weapons announced as part of Putin’s speech, the Satan 2 is a real, and unsettling, threat. Russia conducted its latest successful pop-up test—used to ensure the missile successfully leaves its container—of the weapon at the end of March.

Russian ICBM missile nuclear A Russian Topol intercontinental ballistic missile launcher rolls past the Kremlin in Moscow, on May 7, 2014. Russia has the second largest nuclear arsenal in the world. YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images

Russia has the second largest nuclear arsenal in the world, with only the U.S. possessing greater destructive capability. Putin has said he will not hesitate to use his arsenal in response to a nuclear event, even if it sparks a chain reaction leading to “global catastrophe.”

The RS-28 Sarmat has raised fears that the U.S. is in another “missile gap”—a term popularized during the Cold War to describe the perceived numerical and technical superiority of the Soviet Union’s nuclear missiles compared with America's armory.

The U.S. is in the early stages of a wide-ranging modernization of its nuclear arsenal. As part of the Nuclear Posture Review ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump, a Congressional Budget Office report said it will cost $1.2 trillion over 30 years to make America’s three-pronged deterrent suitable for continued use.