Russia already has the Skyfall: an unlimited range cruise missile

MOSCOW, RUSSIA — Earlier, several media, citing a source in the Russian Ministry of Defense, reported that Russia already has the 9M730 Burevestnik [NATO reporting name: SSC-X-9 Skyfall, Burevestnik is a Petrel in English] cruise missile. Moreover, the military department even showed the workshop where these missiles are assembled.

Russia already has the Skyfall: an unlimited range cruise missile
Photo credit: Yandex

According to the declared characteristics, the Burevestnik missile with a nuclear power plant operating on completely new physical principles is supposed to have a pulsating nuclear air-breathing engine. The missile also has an extremely “special” warhead and a relatively unlimited flight range at a speed of Mach 0.9-1.0 with the ability to patrol certain areas before moving to the target on command.

It is also known that the missile flies too low to the patrol site – at an echelon of 30 to 60 meters, bypassing all lines of enemy air and missile defense, which affects its stealth and the impossibility of being intercepted. This was stated personally by Russian President Mr. Vladimir Putin in 2018 during his message to the Federal Assembly. At the time, Western experts unanimously claimed that it was science fiction and “Putin’s cartoons.”

Today, however, US intelligence agencies, closely following the latest Russian weapons tests, have changed their irony and rhetoric about Russia’s combat-ready Burevestnik to concern.


On February 21, during the announcement of the message to the Federal Assembly, Mr. Vladimir Putin announced the suspension of Russia’s participation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty START-3. He also shared that he had previously signed a decree to put the latest land and sea-based strategic systems on combat duty.

India’s Wio News reported that according to a report by the US Congress, Russia currently has new “super killer” weapons across the country, including NATO-coded Skyfall Burevestnik missiles. The report also highlighted that the US Strategic Command has stated that it does not have such types of weapons and is not in a position to create one in the foreseeable future. For this reason, it does not make sense to continue the previously signed START-3 agreement with Russia, and it will be necessary to sign a new agreement that includes the latest Russian strategic models.

That is, Washington is already preparing a new treaty that will be beneficial only for the United States and limit Russia’s opportunities, writes Wio News. However, it appears that both the old and the new US START treaty are now covered with a “copper basin”.

Russia already has the Skyfall: an unlimited range cruise missile
Video screenshot

The other day, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that they regret the Russian decision on START and are ready to negotiate with Russia on arms limitation at any time. But whether at this stage it is necessary for Russia to even consider this proposal of the White House, the question remains open.

How does the Skyfall work?

There is still no clear understanding of exactly how Skyfall’s propulsion system is arranged. There is only a version that is a gas-phase nuclear rocket engine with a working fluid of atmospheric air, written N+1 magazine. Simply put, we are talking about a small reactor whose controlled chain reaction heats the air passing through the air intake and pushing out of the nozzle.

At the same time, the same air acts as a cooling element of the reactor. Therefore, such a rocket can “exist” only during high-speed flight, without cooling it will immediately begin to melt the reactor.

Most likely, “Burevestnik” has a solid fuel engine to accelerate the rocket, after which the reactor is activated at a certain speed, nuclear technology expert Mr. Valentin Gibalov and military expert Mr. Alexander Goltz explained on the radio Svoboda.

Russia already has the Skyfall: an unlimited range cruise missile
Video Screenshot

The world community is actively debating how much such a propulsion system will pollute the atmosphere. Burevestnik is supposed to have a closed reactor, in which the air does not have direct contact with the reactor core, which means that the radioactive footprint of such a rocket would be very small.

They call it “The Flying Chernobyl”

The military expert from the Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine Alexei Leonkov calls the “Petrel” a weapon of retribution. “Weapons that will be used after the warheads of the intercontinental ballistic missiles “work out” on the territory of the aggressor. “Burevestnik” will complete the destruction of all objects of the military and civil infrastructure of the aggressor country, leaving it no chance of survival,” wrote Leonkov for Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

In addition, Burevestnik probably has a navigation system at the endpoints of the field. The product memory contains images of terrain objects along the flight route. At a certain time, the rocket makes a “jump” at a height of several hundred meters and “inspects” the terrain. After that, the navigation system compares the “seen” with the established standard, Izvestia writes. Thanks to the correction system for extreme points of the terrain, Skyfall can go around obstacles.

Tests and mysteries

Until a few years ago, there was still no official information whether Russia had conducted Skyfall tests. Two years ago, the US claimed that the missile would not be ready until 2025. However, there are incidents where Russia is believed to have tested the missile. For example, in 2019, when a “mysterious explosion” off the northern coast of Russia was detected.

Russia already has the Skyfall: an unlimited range cruise missile
Video screenshot

However, in 2020, several sources confirmed that Russia had successfully tested the missile. The intelligence of Finland, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands confirmed this. Immediately after the tests, European intelligence said there were elevated levels of iodine-131 isotopes. Moreover, according to the intelligence services, these isotopes were artificial.


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