U.S. officials and experts believe the explosion, which killed seven, came after a botched test of a new nuclear-powered cruise missile that Russian President Vladimir Putin has trumpeted as central to Russia’s 21st-century nuclear deterrent, the New York Times reports.
“The possibility that this was another Russian mishap with its nuclear-powered cruise missile is looking frighteningly plausible,” said Ian Williams, the deputy director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in an email to Foreign Policy.
The missile in question. Suspicion fell on the Burevestnik, a nuclear-powered cruise missile Russia is developing, dubbed “Skyfall” by NATO. The weapon is intended to fly for hours or even days in a bid to evade missile defense systems. “The system is part of several new strategic-range nuclear delivery systems that Russia is developing. Most are having testing problems, behind schedule, or unlikely to be fielded in large numbers, if ever,” said Kingston Reif, the director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association.