Three ships from the Russian Navy, including one that is specially equipped to handle radioactive materials, have been dispatched to the Barents Sea in search of a high profile weapon Vladimir Putin recently touted as “invulnerable to all existing and future missile defense and air defense systems.” The nuclear-powered cruise missile was supposed to offer a near limitless operational range, granting it the ability to conduct complex maneuvers that could circumvent the ways American systems intercept inbound missiles.
The problem is, despite Putin’s grand claims about the platform, it doesn’t seem to work. The missing missile was tested in November, reportedly against the advice of the engineers tasked with its development, only to be lost at sea north of Norway and Russia. To date, the longest reported test flight of this new missile lasted only two minutes, with the platform covering 22 miles before it attempted to engage the nuclear drive system. The system, however, has failed to engage in any test to date, sending the missile sputtering to the ground after it expends its traditional fuel supply.
Thus far, four attempts have reportedly been made to get the missile platform to function, with none matching the 22 miles of its most successful test, and others lasting just seconds before failing or coming apart.
The ships dispatched to recover the missile may have their work cut out for them. If the missile managed to come down in one piece, the operation could be as simple as looking for a needle in the world’ largest haystack, but if it came apart upon impact, they could be faced with not only the daunting task of finding what’s left, but they’ll have to contend with risks of radiation exposure as well.