Russia announced the first test launch of its new, nuclear-capable Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system on Wednesday.
The rocket, launched from a facility in northern Russia towards a firing range in the east, should give the country’s enemies pause, according to Russia president Vladimir Putin.
Speaking on Russian television, he said the weapon will “make those who, in the heat of frantic, aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country, think twice”.
In an apparent dig at western sanctions, he also noted the missile was made with entirely Russian components.
Russian officials properly notified the US ahead of the test firing, according to the Pentagon, which called the launch “routine” and not a threat to the US.
Mr Putin claimed the missile, which hit its targets after traveling roughly 6,000km (3,700 miles), is virtually impossible to defend against with current technology.
“The new complex has the highest tactical and technical characteristics and is capable of overcoming all modern means of anti-missile defence. It has no analogues in the world and won’t have for a long time to come,” he said during a video briefing with defense officials.
The Sarmat, nicknamed Satan II by some Nato leaders, replaces the Soviet-era Voyevoda system, and has been in development for years. Mr Putin announced development of the ICBM in 2018.
The launch is the latest public invocation of Russia’s nuclear programme, in the context of the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
As Mr Putin kicked off the offensive in February, he warned that outside intervention would prompt “such consequences that you have never encountered in your history”, which many saw as a nuclear threat.
He has also put Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert.
Russian forces have used hypersonic missiles in Ukraine, making them the first nation to use such weapons in a theater of war.
Hypersonic weapons travel at up to five times the speed of sound, and are more difficult to track and intercept than normal weapons.
The US trialled a hypersonic missile of its own in mid-March, but didn’t announce the test until mid-March, in order to avoid escalating tensions with Russia, CNN reported.
Russia may have failed in its initial drive to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv in an overwhelming ground offensive, but the threat against the country hasn’t ended.
Nearly two months after the invasion began, Russia appears to be shifting its strategy, massing troops and supplies for a renewed campaign in eastern Ukraine, where Russia and separatist groups it supports have been waging an armed insurgency for years on end.
“They are moving in heavy artillery, they are moving in command-and-control enablers, they are moving in aviation — particularly rotary aviation support,” a senior defense official from the Pentagon told The Washington Post. “It appears they are trying to learn from the lessons of the north, where they didn’t have proper sustainment capabilities.”
Early in Russia’s attack on Ukraine, images emerged of large convoys of Russian vehicles stranded without fuel, and Russian soldiers looting local stores for food.
US officials have argued Vladimir Putin and his circle of advisers badly underestimated the difficulty of taking Ukraine and the resoluteness of the Ukrainian defense effort.
“He was confident that he had modernized his military and they were capable of quick, decisive victory at minimal cost. He’s been proven wrong on every count,” CIA Director William Burns, a former ambassador to Moscow, tested in Congress in March. “Those assumptions have proven to be profoundly flawed over the last 12 days of conflict.”