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Russia’s nuclear boxing day surprise

RUSSIA overnight launched an RS-12M Topol intercontinental ballistic missile. It was carrying a new design of re-entry vehicle — the guided craft intended to deliver nuclear warheads with pinpoint accuracy to their destinations.

The ICBM’s plume flared over eastern and central Europe yesterday in much the same way billionaire Elon Musk’s rocket did in the US last week.

But this one was testing new decoy, low-observability and other countermeasures aimed at negating recent strides the United States has made in its missile defence shield.

While Washington may have its eyes on rogue-state North Korea as it develops and deploys such systems as the THAAD, Patriot and SM interceptors, Russia and China have not been hesitant about voicing their complaints.

Their concern is the US ‘missile shield’ may eventually offer Washington the protection it needs to negate the decades-old balance of ‘mutually assured destruction’, and launch a first strike without suffering dire consequences.

Overnight Moscow mouthpiece TASS reported the ICBM was launched from the Kapustin Yar range near Kazakhstan. It did not reveal where its test target was.

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“During the tests, specialists obtained experimental data that will be used in the interests of developing effective means of overcoming anti-ballistic missile defence and equipping the perspective grouping of Russian ballistic missiles with them,” TASS quoted the Russian Defense Ministry as saying.

“The test courses and the measuring systems at the Kapustin Yar practice range allow testing … armament capable of overcoming ABM defences, including their future configuration, across the entire range of the conditions for the armament’s delivery to targets in the interests of the Strategic Missile Force and the Navy.”

In September, Moscow announced it had conducted another Topol ICBM test — in this instance believed to carry a new hypersonic delivery vehicle.

The Topol range of ICBM missiles first entered service in 1997 and have since the outset been designed to be difficult to intercept. They already carry large numbers of decoys intended to confuse tracking radars and have features to mask its infra-red signature.

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