Burevestnik: nuclear-powered cruise missile with unlimited range

The Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile is considered a game-changing weapon for the Russians, but perfecting it will be not so easy for Russian.

The 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile (NATO reporting name SSC-X-9 Skyfall) is one of five strategic weapons mentioned during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s State of the Union address in 2016. March 2018.

According to sources Burevestnik is said to have an unlimited attack range thanks to the use of nuclear engines, also it is capable of penetrating all the most advanced defense systems today thanks to its flexible maneuverability during flight.

According to Russian media, during the approach, the missile will constantly change direction at low altitudes to avoid early warning and air defense systems. This is an important feature, helping to deceive all defense combinations and hit the target from the most unexpected directions.

Burevestnik Lauch site
Burevestnik Lauch site

Although the Russians are very confident in their “unique” weapon, according to many international military experts, it is not easy for Moscow to perfect the Burevestnik missile soon, despite their assertions that it is about to enter combat service.

The first problem to consider is that Russia is not a pioneer in the creation of this special weapon, but half a century ago (in the late 1950s – early 1960s) the United States developed the weapon. Launched a project called Pluto. The program aims to build a low-altitude supersonic cruise missile (SLAM), designed around a straight-line nuclear jet engine. However, Washington had to cancel this ambitious project because it saw too many challenges to overcome.

Burevestnik during test
Burevestnik during test

After decades of years, the Russians came up with the same idea, although science and technology as well as engineering have made great strides, but the difficulty is still at an extremely high level that is unlikely to be overcome by Moscow. The first and biggest obstacle is how to build a micro-nuclear reactor to attach to a cruise missile no more than the size of a conventional jet engine.

In the past, the US Project Pluto SLAM missile was about the size of a locomotive, but that was when defense technology had not yet developed, and today if it cannot be reduced to the “heart” of the missile down a dozen times, then it will be shot down from a great distance because of huge size.

From a technical point of view, a rocket-powered reactor must be one of the smallest, lightest components ever created (achieved by eliminating almost everything involved, down to the most considered ideas).

Burevestnik assembly line
Burevestnik assembly line

The reactor’s operating temperature will be very high (estimated more than 1,300°C) enough for the alloy to melt, causing the fuel rod casing to be made of a special material that has both high strength and lightweight and also can absorb radar waves to increase stealth, this is an extremely difficult requirement.

In addition, to silently approach enemy territory, the Burevestnik missile will require an extremely low flight trajectory right from the launch stage to bypass the early warning radar network, when the booster stage uses fuel.

In the above case, the first consequence is definitely Russia, because the rocket engine will emit full of gamma and neutron radiation along with toxic fallout, polluting the environment for a large area of ​​​​the world. flight path without any way of blocking.

The cost to produce such a high-tech weapon certainly cannot be cheap. If a Burevestnik requires tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars, it cannot be produced in large enough quantities to meet the equipment requirements.

Overcoming the above barriers is still considered impossible and difficult to do overnight, even with the world’s leading military and scientific power like Russia.

In fact, it has also been proven that, according to a US intelligence source once reported by CNBC, the Burevestnik missile has repeatedly failed while conducting test launches.

Specifically, in the tests, the furthest distance that Burevestnik achieved was only 35 km, flight time was only 2 minutes before the missile lost control and crashed into the ground. Even the shortest flight was worse when it lasted only 4 seconds with a passing distance of 8 km.

Challenges are still numerous ahead while the efficiency that Burevetsnik brings has not really proved to be outstanding against classic long-range cruise missiles like Kh-101, so the risk of it being “dead” is similar to the Project US Pluto possible.

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