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Explained: What is Russia’s new nuclear missile Sarmat, capable of striking ‘anywhere in the world’?

The RS-28 Sarmat, also called Satan-II, is reported to be able to carry ten or more warheads and decoys, and has the capability of firing over either of the earth’s poles with a range of 11,000 to 18,000 km.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina , Edited by Explained Desk | Chandigarh |
Updated: April 21, 2022 6:20:13 pm
This handout photo released by Roscosmos Space Agency Press Service on Wednesday shows the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile being launched from Plesetsk in Russia's northwest. (Photo: AP)

Amidst stiff resistance from Ukraine in the ongoing war and harsh sanctions imposed by the West, Russia went ahead and tested its new Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Sarmat on Wednesday. The Russian President said the test would make Russia’s enemies “think twice”. What is this missile capable of and what is the threat for Russia’s adversaries?

Is this the first test of the new ICBM?

This was the first test launch of the ICMB Sarmat after having been delayed earlier in 2021. For reasons not known to the public, the test was pushed to December 2021 and then to April 2022. On Wednesday, it was launched from Plesetsk in North West Russia with the intended target in the Kamchatka peninsula almost 6,000 km away. As per Russian news reports, the missile will have at least five more launches in 2022 before being inducted into the Russian military. Prior to the actual launch, a dummy missile test also took place. Computer simulated missile launches were also done multiple times and some of them were also shared publicly.

Was Russia known to be developing this missile?

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It was widely known that Russia was developing a new ICBM to replace its older ones and an announcement in this regard had been made by President Vladimir Putin in 2018 while making his State of the Nation address to the Federal Assembly.

He had stated at the time that the first Regiment fully armed with Sarmat ICBM will be operational by the end of 2022. Even before Putin’s announcement, there had been reports that Moscow was developing a new ICBM and photos of the possible design came into the fore in 2016. The actual development schedule is believed to have been further back in 2009 to 2011. The deteriorating relations between Russia and the Western Powers is said to have given an impetus to its development.

How is it more advanced than the other Russian ICBMs?

The RS-28 Sarmat (NATO name Satan-II) is reported to be able to carry ten or more warheads and decoys and has the capability of firing over either of the earth’s poles with a range of 11,000 to 18,000 km. It is expected to pose a significant challenge to the ground-and-satellite-based radar tracking systems of the western powers, particularly the USA.

The ten warheads are Multiple Independently-Targetable Re-entry Vehicles and each has a blast yield of .75 MT. The Sarmat will also be the first Russian missile which can carry smaller hypersonic boost-glide vehicles. These are manoeuvrable and hard to intercept. The upgraded electronic counter measures, guidance systems and alternative warhead carrying capacity makes the RS-28 Sarmat ICBM more lethal than the R-36M Voyevoda ICBMs (NATO name Satan) currently in service in Russia.

Some reports say that while the height and weight of Sarmat ICBM is the same as in the older one, it has more speed and high throw weight. However, the Sarmat is a liquid fuelled missile as compared to US ICBMs which have moved on to solid fuel systems. Regardless of the different propulsion system, the Sarmat is supposed to pose a significant threat to the US Missile Defence Systems.

Who is it named after?

According to a report by news agency TASS, the Sarmat is named after nomadic tribes that roamed the steppes of present-day Southern Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan in the early medieval period. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica: “Sarmatians were highly developed in horsemanship and warfare.” It goes on to say that the administrative capabilities and political expertise of Sarmatians contributed to their gaining widespread influence and by the 5th century BC they held control of the land between the Urals and the Don River. “In the 4th century they crossed the Don and conquered the Scythians, replacing them as rulers of almost all of southern Russia by the 2nd century,” it adds.

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