The US recently pulled out of a nuclear arms control pact with Russia. Image Credit: US Navy
A top-secret nuclear powered missile named 'Skyfall' is thought to have caused a recent fatal explosion.
The accident, which occurred on an offshore testing platform in the Arctic last Thursday, caused the deaths of five Russian nuclear engineers and produced a radiation spike in the surrounding area.
Exactly what the men had been working on at the time however has since remained a topic of some speculation, with the most likely culprit being the engine of a nuclear-powered cruise missile.
Known as Burevestnik (or 'Skyfall'), this devastating missile remains very secretive, however with a nuclear power source it is rumored to have 'unlimited range' and significant destructive potential.
"The Burevestnik is technically an intercontinental cruise missile," said Mathieu Boulegue, a research fellow with the Russia and Eurasia programme at Chatham House.
"It's a cruise missile, which means two things: it flies fast and it flies low, in comparison to an intercontinental ballistic missile that's somewhat slower on re-entry but flies very high."
As evidenced by the fatal explosion, such a missile also has the potential to be very problematic.
"There is speed versus the weight of the system, and the risk of a missile that spews radioactive exhaust wherever it goes," said Russia analyst Mark Galeotti. "These new systems have their origin in Soviet times - they've been taken off the shelves and given new investment."
The five men who died in the accident were Alexei Vyushin, Yevgeny Korotayev, Vyacheslav Lipshev, Sergei Pichugin and Vladislav Yanovsky.
They have been described as "heroes" who worked under "extraordinarily tough conditions."
At their funeral in Sarov, Rosatom chief Alexei Likhachev stated that "the best way to remember them is to continue our work on new types of weapon, which will be completed without fail."
Source: BBC News | Comments (35)
Russia, Rocket, Nuclear, Skyfall