Team Putin is talking up fearsome new hardware that could accelerate a nuclear contest not watched since the Cold War.”>
Russia has a new nuclear missileone that Zvezda, a Russian government-owned Tv network, claimed can wipe out an area the size of Texas or France.
Actually , no, a single SS-3 0 rocket with a standard payload of 12 independent warheads, most certainly could not destroy Texas or France. Not instantly. And not by itself.
Each of the SS-3 0s multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle warheads, or MIRVs, could devastate a single city. But Texas alone has no fewer than 35 the two cities of 100,000 people or more.
Which is not to say the instantaneous extermination of a dozen cities and the deaths of millions of people in a single U.S. state wouldnt mean the end of the world as we know it.
Nobody nukes only Texas. And if Russia is disintegrating Texan cities, that means Russia is also blasting cities all over the United States and allied countrieswhile America and its allies nuke Russia right back.
Moscows arsenal of approximately 7,000 atomic weapons1, 800 of which are on high alertand America's own, somewhat smaller arsenalagain, only 1,800 of which are ready to fire at any given timeplus the approximately 1,000 warheads that the rest of the world's nuclear powers possess are, together, more than adequate to kill every human being on Earth as well as most other forms of life.
One new Russian rocket doesnt significantly alter that terrible calculus.
But that doesnt mean you shouldnt be alarmed. The SS-3 0 is only the most recent show of a worrying trend. After decades of steady disarmament, the United States and Russia are pouring tens of billions of dollars into building new and more capable nuclear weaponry that experts concur neither country requires , nor can afford.
The SS-3 0 by itself is just slightly more destructive than older Russian rockets. Its what the new weapon represents thats frightening. The post-Cold War nuclear holiday is over. And apocalyptic weaponry such as Russias new SS-3 0 are back at work making the world a very, very scary place.
Moscow approved development of the SS-3 0 in 2009 as a replacing for the Cold War-vintage SS-1 8. Seven years later, the first rockets are reportedly ready for testing. The Kremlin wants the new rockets to be ready for possible wartime utilize as early as 2018.
Details about the new weapon are hard to come by. Sputnik, a Russian state-owned news website, described the SS-3 0 as a two-stage rocket with a mass of 100 tons and a range of 6,200 miles. Launching from underground silos in sparsely-populated eastern Russia, SS-3 0s could fly over the North Pole and rain down their dozen MIRVs on cities and military basis all over North America.
Incidentally, Americas own nuclear attack schemes more or less mirror Russian's schemes. U.S. rockets would cross the North Pole headed in the opposite direction and deploy their own MIRVs to smash Russian cities and bases.
Those schemes havent changed much in 50 years. Nor have the nuclear rockets themselves changed very much. The older SS-1 8 is actually somewhat heavier than the SS-3 0 and boasts a similar scope while carrying 10 MIRVs. One difference between the two rockets is that, being newer, the SS-3 0 will undoubtedly be easier to maintain.
And then there are the countemeasures. The SS-3 0 reportedly arrives equipped with what Sputnik described as an array of advanced anti-missile countermeasures that, in notion, could confuse U.S. defenses and ensure that the warheads strike their targets.
But no countryneither the United States nor anyone elsepossesses a working rocket shield be permitted to intercept a heavy, intercontinental ballistic missile traveling at 20 periods the speed of sound. Americas costly missile-defense systems, including ship- and land-based interceptors, are available to knock down relatively slow-flying, medium-range ballistic missile fired by, say, Iran or North Korea.