Vladimir Putin's "unlimited range" missile crashed after 22 miles say US intelligence sources
A Russian cruise missile designed to have a virtually unlimited range has reportedly crashed just two minutes and 22 miles after take-off, according to US intelligence sources.
Speaking to CNBC, these sources said that the same missile design had undergone testing four times between November and February, but had crash-landed on each occasion. In the case of the shortest test, the missile had flown just five miles.
The weapon was apparently part of a selection of arms first unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin in March at the Russian Federal Assembly, which the leader said would make his country "invincible". Among the other weapons mentioned by Putin were an underwater drone capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
The missile in question is believed to have been under development for at least a decade, and thought to use nuclear power during the flight. It is not known at this stage whether the crashes could have left debris that may pose an environmental hazard.
In March, Mr Putin said of the missile: "Since its range is unlimited, it can manoeuvre as long as you want, [sic]" adding that: "For now, no one in the world has anything like this." The talk sparked concerns that Russia could be attempting to push the world back towards a Cold War-style arms race.
In light of these claims, Russia has denied that the missile tests have been a failure, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling the world: “Listen to Russian President Vladimir Putin and trust him,” according to the Tass Russian state news agency.
However, it's not all bad news for the Russian state. It is believed that a hypersonic glide vehicle that they have been developing has been a success. Capable of travelling at up to five times the speed of sound, and of carrying nuclear warheads, it is designed to sit on an intercontinental ballistic missile and use aerodynamic forces to reach the top of the earth's atmosphere.
According to sources close to the US security services, there is currently no weapon that can stop or outsmart the hypersonic glide, which will be operational by 2020: "We don't have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us," Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.