Putin Says Russian Navy to Get Hypersonic Nuclear Strike Weapons

July 26, 2020 Updated: July 26, 2020

MOSCOW—Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday the Russian Navy would be armed with hypersonic nuclear strike weapons and underwater nuclear drones, which the defence ministry said were in their final phase of testing.

Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the Navy Day parade

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the Navy Day parade in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on July 26, 2020. (Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Renters)

Putin, who says he does not want an arms race, has often spoken of a new generation of Russian nuclear weapons that he says are unequalled and can hit almost anywhere in the world. Some Western experts have questioned how advanced they are.

The weapons, some of which have yet to be deployed, include the Poseidon underwater nuclear drone, designed to be carried by submarines, and the Tsirkon (Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile, which can be deployed on surface ships.

Vladimir Putin inspects warships on the Neva river during the Navy Day
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin inspects warships on the Neva river during the Navy Day parade in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on July 26, 2020. (Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Renters)

The combination of speed, manoeuvrability and altitude of hypersonic missiles, capable of travelling at more than five times the speed of sound, makes them difficult to track and intercept.

Speaking in St Petersburg at an annual naval parade that showcases Russia’s best ships, nuclear submarines and naval aviation, Putin said the navy’s capabilities were growing and it would get 40 new vessels this year.

He did not specify when it would receive new hypersonic weapons, but suggested that day was drawing closer.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Commander of the Western Military District of Russian Armed Forces Alexander Zhuravlyov
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Commander of the Western Military District of Russian Armed Forces Alexander Zhuravlyov are pictured aboard the Raptor patrol boat before the Navy Day parade in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on July 26, 2020.(Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via Renters)

“The widespread deployment of advanced digital technologies that have no equals in the world, including hypersonic strike systems and underwater drones, will give the fleet unique advantages and increased combat capabilities,” Putin said.

In a separate statement released via Russian news agencies, the defence ministry said testing of the Belgorod, the first submarine capable of carrying the Poseidon drones, was underway and testing of the weapons systems was nearing completion.

“Work is being successfully completed to create modern weapons systems for the Navy,” it was cited as saying.

Putin last year threatened to deploy hypersonic missiles on ships and submarines that could lurk outside U.S. territorial waters if the United States moved to deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe.

Washington has not deployed such missiles in Europe, but Moscow is worried it might.

By Andrew Osborn