Russia’s Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile is set for a drop test this year and a test launch within a year and a half of the drop test, Russian defense sources told ITAR-TASS on Thursday. The new missile is set to replace the Cold-War era R-36 missile, nicknamed “SS-18 Satan” by NATO, which is still the world’s largest intercontinental ballistic missile ever made.
Russian technicians will conduct a “drop test” at some point this year to measure the missile’s lift and proper evolution through its launch stages before they conduct a full test launch, provided the missile performs. The missile is expected to enter service in 2020.
The Sarmat could deliver up to 10 heavy nuclear warheads or 15 medium warheads at targets up to 6,200 miles away, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative. The missile would carry the warheads into suborbital flight, at which point they would separate and hit independent targets. It can reportedly “flying over the North and South Poles” and “would be capable of overcoming almost any missile defense system,” according to Pravda.
While the U.S. and Russia made strides in nuclear missile reductions following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the major treaties signed like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons do not prevent nuclear states from replacing or upgrading their arsenals. START set a total limit for the number of warheads each state can have and the NPT forbids states from spreading weapons technologies to other, non-recognized nuclear states.
The U.S. has plans to keep their Minuteman III ballistic missiles in service through 2030 with a series of upgrades, but the Air Force has voiced it wants to develop a new system. Both the Sarmat and its Satan predecessor are more powerful than the Minuteman. The Air Force has awarded contractors upward of $50 million to develop new guidance systems and other upgrades to the Minuteman III, according to the Great Falls Tribune.
Earlier this week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Ragozin claimed that the U.S. could not defend against Russia’s nuclear arsenal, although he did not specify what missile technology he was referring to.