The promising models of Russian weapons announced last year are attracting the attention of the media and foreign intelligence services. From time to time, information from intelligence agencies appears in the open press. On September 11, the American news agency CNBC again turned to the topic of the promising Burevestnik missile and published information from sources in the intelligence agencies.
New data on the progress of the "Petrel" project received from a source in an unnamed US intelligence organization. At the same time, only part of the information is published for the first time, while others have already been present in earlier articles on CNBC and other media outlets. Then anonymous intelligence sources were also indicated.
American intelligence has established that the tests of the promising Burevestnik missile are not going well so far. There are accidents, incl. with human casualties. So, the incident at the Nyonoksa training ground in early August is associated with the operation to raise the sunken experienced "Petrel". An explosion killed five Russian specialists during this work.
CNBC writes that from November 2017 to February 2018, the Russian industry conducted four test launches of prototypes. Another launch took place this year. All these starts ended in accidents. According to reconnaissance data, the shortest flight lasted a matter of seconds, and the rocket managed to fly only 5 miles (8 km). In the most successful test, the flight lasted more than two minutes, during which time the rocket overcame approx. 22 miles (35 km).
These tests are said to have demonstrated serious problems with the Petrel's propulsion system. There were difficulties with starting the reactor. Ultimately, all this leads to the fact that a promising rocket is not yet able to continue flying for many hours and show the declared unlimited flight range.
Despite the observed problems, the US intelligence is inclined to be optimistic. According to the document obtained by CNBC, the expected timing of the appearance of the combat-ready "Petrel" has shifted to the left. The missile will be able to enter service over the next six years. Earlier, other versions were expressed, implying a later arrival of weapons in arsenals.
Assessment of the situation
The latest CNBC publication cites the assessments of several US defense and security experts. At the same time, they affect not only technology, but also political issues, as well as the impact of new Russian projects on the international situation.
For example, Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies noted that countries are at the start of a new arms race. "The personal friendship of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin does not replace treaties," and therefore countries continue to develop new weapons.
Also included is the opinion of Joshua Pollack, editor of the Nonproliferation Review. He considers the new Russian strategy for the development of strategic weapons redundant, and also notes that the development of fundamentally new technologies always takes a lot of time. At the same time, the existing intercontinental ballistic missiles are quite capable of coping with the same tasks without any particular difficulties.
The American news agency CNBC provides information on five test launches of the Burevestnik rocket from the end of 2017 to the summer of 2019. This data was obtained last and this year from unnamed sources in the US intelligence agencies. The specifics of the work of intelligence and the media to a certain extent limits the real value of such information.
The situation with official data on the progress of work on the rocket is no better. For the first time, the existence of the product, later called "Petrel", was announced on March 1, 2018. Then it was indicated that at the end of 2017, a successful launch of an experimental rocket took place. The nuclear power plant of the product went into operation and showed the necessary characteristics.
The next time the official information appeared in July. Then the Ministry of Defense showed the assembly shop of the manufacturer, and also talked about the latest successes. By that time, the project had been improved, and preparations were underway for testing the modified rocket.
Since then, there have been no new official reports about the Burevestnik. At the same time, domestic and foreign media have repeatedly recalled this project, and published a variety of news. So, at the beginning of the year, the Russian press wrote about the successful test of a nuclear power plant for a rocket. Almost simultaneously with this, materials about various difficulties and even accidents were published abroad.
The truth is somewhere near
For obvious reasons, the Russian Ministry of Defense is in no hurry to disclose all data on promising strategic weapons projects. At the same time, domestic and foreign media show great interest in this topic and strive to extract and publish new data from all available sources. In addition, there may be characteristic additional factors that influence the selection and presentation of news.
As a result, a very interesting situation develops. There is very little official data on the Burevestnik project, although they also answer some of the main questions. Domestic media publish new unofficial information about the success of the project, while foreign publications often focus on the failures that they learned about from unnamed sources.
Based on the available data, a fairly detailed picture can be drawn, in which, however, there are many blank spots. How much it corresponds to reality is unknown. Due to the special nature of the project, real detailed information may not appear until the future.
Apparently, to date, Russia has indeed carried out several full-fledged test launches of the Burevestnik. The course of several tests made it possible to shoot previously published videos showing the launch and flight of products. At the same time, the real flight parameters remain unknown.
There is reason to believe that not everything is going smoothly, and the developers of the rocket are facing problems. In the early stages of flight tests, various malfunctions are always observed, and some of the test flights could really go wrong, incl. with accidents. It is not known whether CNBC's information about five launches with five failures is true.
Attention should be paid to the estimates of American intelligence regarding the timing of the completion of the project. CNBC writes that such forecasts have changed - now analysts assume a faster completion of work. "Petrel" will be able to enter service in the period until 2025 inclusive. Such assessments look especially curious against the background of reports of a number of accidents and unsuccessful tests.
Regarding regular reports of failures, we can talk about a biased presentation of information. Due to the specific situation in the international arena, foreign media cannot unambiguously recognize Russian successes, let alone openly praise our projects. In this regard, the emphasis is shifting to accidents and failures.
Optimism and pessimism
Despite disagreements in the selection of facts for coverage and different accents, various media and official sources agree on some considerations about the Burevestnik project. No one denies that work on the new rocket continues, and new tests are regularly carried out.
It is also obvious to everyone that the project, which is of particular importance for the national security of Russia, will be completed, and the latest missile will go into service. Moreover, foreign sources tend to shift the timing to the left, which looks like a kind of optimistic assessment. It also shows that the adoption of the finished Burevestnik missile is expected both in our country and abroad. However, one should not expect that the processes preceding this will be accompanied by positive assessments and praise from foreign publications.