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Sarmat, Zircon, and Burevestnik: What's known about Putin's 'one-of-a-kind' weapons

Sarmat, Zircon, and Burevestnik: What's known about Putin's 'one-of-a-kind' weapons Russian dictator Vladimir Putin again threatens the West with nuclear weapons (Photo:

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin today, February 29, delivered an address, part of which was devoted to renewed threats. In particular, he mentioned specific types of weaponry for strikes on the territory of Western countries.

More about this and why Putin is threatening with weapons, including those that do not yet exist, read in the material by RBC-Ukraine.

The article was prepared using: Putin's address to the federal assembly, Wikipedia, material by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), specialized portals Army Recognition,, Defense Express, comments by military expert Oleksandr Kovalenko.


What and why is Putin threatening Western countries again?

Russian dictator Vladimir Putin today, February 29, delivered an address, part of which involved renewed threats. Specifically, he mentioned the strategic nuclear forces of Russia being "in a state of full readiness for guaranteed use."

"Thus, the hypersonic aviation complex Kinzhal is not only deployed but also effectively used for striking targets during special military operations," he said.

During the invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces have been employing Kinzhal without the nuclear warhead since March 2022, launching it from the MiG-31K carrier. The first such missile was shot down only in May 2023. The Soviet-era air defense systems could not effectively destroy ballistic targets. After Western air defense systems, including the Patriot, replaced them, according to the Air Force, 25 aeroballistic Kinzhal missiles were shot down by February 24, 2024.

Putin then practically confirmed strikes with the anti-ship Zircon.

"Also, in combat, the sea-based hypersonic strike complex Zircon has already been employed, which was not even mentioned in the 2018 address. But this system is also operational," he said.

This refers to the missile strike on Kyiv on February 7.

As stated by experts at the Institute of Forensic Expertise, Russia did indeed employ the 'Zircon.' Its claimed characteristics: range - 600-15000 km, speed - up to 8-9 Mach, warhead mass - about 300-400 kg, length - 8-10 m. Analysis of the fragments is complicated due to the significant fragmentation of the missile, but experts concluded that the weapon does not correspond to the stated characteristics.

For more details about the strike on February 7 and this missile, read a separate article by RBC-Ukraine.

Sarmat, Zircon, and Burevestnik: What's known about Putin's 'one-of-a-kind' weaponsPhoto: Vladimir Putin boasted about striking Ukraine with Zircons and Kinzals (

Putin didn't stop at Kinzals and Zircons and named several more types of weapons.

"Hypersonic intercontinental Avangard combat units and Peresvet laser complexes are on combat duty. Trials of the long-range cruise missile Burevestnik and unmanned underwater vehicle Poseidon are nearing completion. These systems have confirmed their high serial characteristics. The first serial heavy ballistic missiles Sarmat have been delivered to the troops. We will soon demonstrate them in deployment areas," he stated.

The Russian dictator emphasized purported readiness for a dialogue on strategic stability with the US but complained that Washington is engaged in "open hostile actions" and seeks to inflict strategic defeat on Moscow on the battlefield. He also touched upon the words of French President Emmanuel Macron, who recently did not rule out sending Western troops to Ukraine in the future.

"But we remember the fate of those who once directed their contingents to the territory of our country (obviously, Putin referred to Ukraine as 'our country' - Ed.). But now the consequences for possible interveners will be much more tragic. They must finally understand that we also have weapons that can strike targets on their territory. And that everything they terrify the world with, that all this poses a real threat of conflict involving the use of nuclear weapons, and thus the destruction of civilization," added Putin.

Fast and heavy: What is known about the Avangard missile complex

The Avangard is a missile complex equipped with a guided combat unit. It's worth noting that Russia is developing three hypersonic weapon programs, and the Avangard is the third after the Kinzhal and Zircon.

The core of the system is a hypersonic combat unit launched by the intercontinental ballistic missile UR-100N UTTX/RS-28 (to be replaced by Sarmat). In 2018, Putin stated that the maneuverable hypersonic warhead is capable of penetrating prospective missile defense systems by maneuvering in altitude and course. It approaches its target like a "fireball," with surface temperatures reaching up to 2000 degrees.

It has a complex of anti-missile defense means, with a probable length of 5-7 meters, a composite material body, and a control system allowing for changes in flight tasks and target allocation before launch. It supposedly reaches speeds of up to 28 Mach - around 9.5 km/s. Its range exceeds 6000 km, with a mass of about 2000 kg. The unit is equipped with a nuclear or conventional warhead with a power of 2 megatons.

Sarmat, Zircon, and Burevestnik: What's known about Putin's 'one-of-a-kind' weapons

Photo: Avangard missile complex (

The carrier rocket delivers it to a suborbital altitude of about 100 km, after which the Avangard transitions into cruising mode, re-enters the atmosphere, and accelerates to maximum speeds. It is claimed that the unit is capable of maneuvering and changing trajectory, making interception difficult. According to various estimates, it may take at least 50 SM-3 anti-missiles from the US Navy to intercept it. It's worth noting that in 2008, such a missile shot down a reconnaissance satellite at an altitude of 247 km and a speed of 22 Mach.

"The development of such weapons may not give America's adversaries a significant advantage, however. Should U.S. nuclear launchers, ICBMs or even land-launched, nuclear-armed strategic bombers be rendered ineffective or destroyed, the United States still has available options with which to retaliate; including measures via the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines," wrote military expert Peter Suciu in a column for The National Interest.

The first Avangards were deployed in 2019. As of the end of 2023, Russia reportedly had approximately 18 units (three missile regiments with 6 units each) in the Orenburg division.

Sarmat is a problematic missile and the longest-range on paper

Sarmat is a fifth-generation strategic missile complex of silo-based deployment with a heavy multi-stage intercontinental ballistic missile. Its concept emphasizes not the maximum weight of the warheads thrown, but the delivery along trajectories that complicate destruction by prospective missile defense systems. It is claimed that the orbital bombing technology supposedly allows for a strike on the USA along a suborbital trajectory via the South Pole bypassing THAAD batteries.

Russia announced a successful launch in the spring of 2022, and the first serial samples of the same year were delivered to missile divisions in the Krasnodar Territory and the Orenburg region. It is noteworthy that in September 2023 it was reported that Sarmat had gone on combat duty, but in October Putin announced the need to complete administrative procedures before the missile goes into production, which surprised analysts.

Sarmat, Zircon, and Burevestnik: What's known about Putin's 'one-of-a-kind' weapons

Photo: Strategic missile Sarmat (

The missile, fueled by liquid fuel, has a flight range of 18,000 km, a launch mass of over 208 tons, a length of 35.3 m, and a diameter of 3 m. It can carry up to 10 tons of payload in various combinations of warheads. According to Russian media reports, Sarmat can carry up to 10 large 750-kiloton warheads, up to 16 lighter ones, and 3-5 Avangard guided combat units or a combination of warheads with anti-missile systems.

Military and political observer of the Information Resistance Group, Oleksandr Kovalenko, says he has serious doubts that Sarmat meets the declared parameters.

"Because it's a very problematic missile. The Russians couldn't even manage test launches, when they launched a model at 30 meters to check the powder booster, they couldn't prepare in time. And overall, there was only one full-scale test of Sarmat. Although during Soviet times, intercontinental ballistic missiles were tested for years, there were dozens of tests with constant error correction. I think Sarmat exists, it's even 'in iron,' but the missile is unreliable and dangerous. That's why it's not produced in series," he says in an interview with RBC-Ukraine.

Nuclear Burevestnik: The essentials about a missile that doesn't exist yet

The Burevestnik is an intercontinental cruise missile with a nuclear power plant, currently under development. It is characterized by a high level of secrecy, and available information about its development and capabilities is limited. The estimated cost per unit is around 5.2 million dollars.

The missile bears similarity to the Kh-101 air-launched cruise missile, albeit larger. Unlike the Kh-101, the wings of the Burevestnik are located at the top. It has a length of approximately 12 meters, with an elliptical nose measuring 1x1.5 meters.

Sarmat, Zircon, and Burevestnik: What's known about Putin's 'one-of-a-kind' weaponsPhoto: Testing of Burevestnik (Photo: Russian media)

What sets it apart from conventional missiles is its onboard nuclear reactor as an engine, providing extended flight range and the ability to stay airborne for long durations. This type of engine generates thrust by heating the air using compact heaters with a nuclear power plant.

Concerns have been raised about potential radiation emissions during flight. It is believed that before final deployment, a reliable navigation system still needs to be developed.

According to experts from the non-profit organization Nuclear Threat Initiative, Russia conducted 13 tests between 2017 and 2019, all of which failed. For instance, in August 2019, an explosion occurred at a test site in the Arkhangelsk region, resulting in the deaths of five scientists, and a radiation spike was detected in Severodvinsk. In their view, the missile is theoretically intended to carry a high-yield warhead, have a flight range of up to 3000 km, and be used as a tool for a "second wave of nuclear strikes" after intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Great torpedo Poseidon, which is unlikely to be deployed in the near future

Poseidon is an unmanned underwater vehicle equipped with a nuclear power plant, essentially a nuclear torpedo. Its stated purpose is to inflict unacceptable damage to coastal areas, as well as to strike ships and naval bases.

Poseidon was included in the armament program for 2018-2027. The Ministry of Defense announced tests, but in reality, only individual components and assemblies were checked. By 2019, a key element, the propulsion system, was not ready for testing. In the spring of 2020, Russia admitted that the assembled apparatus did not exist, and in 2021, it was stated that an additional five years were needed for development.

Possible testing plans were reported by NATO in October 2022, citing the movement of the atomic submarine Belgorod, designed as a carrier for such devices. However, in November, the submarine left the test area without any launches. In January 2023, it was reported that the first combat set of Poseidon torpedoes had been manufactured for the submarine Belgorod.

Sarmat, Zircon, and Burevestnik: What's known about Putin's 'one-of-a-kind' weaponsPhoto: Model of the Poseidon torpedo (Russian media)

The only sources of information on the characteristics of Poseidon remain presentations from 2025, statements from official sources, and information in the media. Its length can range from 16 to 24 meters, with a diameter of 1.5-2 meters and a weight of about 100 tons. Due to its large size, it can only be carried by specialized submarines. It is likely to employ various types of warheads with a maximum yield of up to 2 megatons. The projected diving depth is up to 1000 meters, and its speed is estimated at 100-130 km/h. There is no reliable information about the nuclear reactor.

American intelligence doubts that Poseidon will be deployed by 2027. However, the Russian leadership may seek to expedite its development. Despite periodic threats from Putin to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, these torpedoes will not help him, as it is extremely difficult to bring Belgorod into the Black Sea via the Bosporus, blocked by Türkiye, wrote expert Wesley Culp in a column for

"The Poseidon is a worrying Russian weapon to ponder, it is yet to be seen if Russia will be able to deploy it in the numbers it hopes to, and if it would be as effective and revolutionary as claimed," he added.

According to Oleksandr Kovalenko, both Poseidon and the missile Burevestnik in Russia will try to achieve some logical functioning.

"But to say that they will be serial and mass-produced? No, unlikely. Because Russia is not at the level of technological development where it could create such complex things. The USA could do it, China could do it. Russia - no," the expert says.

Laser Peresvet still under doubt

The Peresvet is a laser weapon system based on new physical principles. Information about it is mostly classified, but according to some assessments, it can perform tasks related to anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense or be used in drone countermeasures. However, its effectiveness depends on weather conditions; fog, snow, and rain affect the passage of the laser beam.

Its operation principle is based on illuminating optical reconnaissance systems, including satellites, with a laser beam. It can be used to cover the launch positions of intercontinental ballistic missiles. The complex includes the laser installation itself and supply vehicles (with power sources).

Sarmat, Zircon, and Burevestnik: What's known about Putin's 'one-of-a-kind' weaponsPhoto: Demonstration slide of the laser system Peresvet (

As Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov stated, the Peresvet laser complexes have been on combat duty since December 2019, covering intercontinental ballistic missile installations. According to Russian media reports, tests were conducted in Syria in 2020. However, even within the Russian expert community, there are doubts about whether Peresvet exists at all. This is because the challenge of reducing the scattering of the laser beam passing through atmospheric layers has not yet been solved. It is considered practically impossible to solve this issue given the current level of technological development. It is also not excluded that the complex exists in only one experimental version, and Western sanctions prevent it from being put into production.


Today, Vladimir Putin once again threatened the West, but his speech was primarily for domestic consumption, according to Kovalenko. The dictator was explaining to the masses that they supposedly had the second-largest army in the world, the best missiles, and other capabilities.

"He is not the first to use nuclear weapons as a scare tactic. He loves hypersonic Kinzhals, Avangard combat units, Sarmat missiles - all this he loves. Because there is no other tool for him to dominate over the West in a conventional format. And the fact that he has a lot of nuclear weapons, everyone understands that he will not use them in a conventional war. All his scare tactics haven't worked for a long time," he adds.