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The New York Times: Russia likely preparing to test nuclear-powered cruise missile

Source: Meduza

Russia may be preparing to test the Burevestnik nuclear-powered intercontinental cruise missile — or might have already done so, writes The New York Times, referencing Planet Labs’ satellite imagery.

Journalists noticed that satellite images taken on September 20 showed equipment on a launchpad on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, including a truck with a trailer that, according to The New York Times, matches the size of the missile. A weather shelter that normally covers the launchpad was moved to the side. By noon, the trailer had disappeared and the shelter had returned to its original position, the publication said.

Satellite images from September 28 also showed signs of activity — a truck stood near the launch pad, while the shelter had been moved to the side.

The New York Times noted that the Russian authorities had released a statement on August 31 recommending pilots to avoid the “temporarily dangerous zone” near part of the Barents Sea and several kilometers away from the Pankovo launchsite. They added that a similar notice was issued before the Burevestnik test in 2019.

According to Bellona, a Norwegian environmental organization, two Rosatom aircraft, which collect data from missile launches, were spotted at the Rogachevo airbase, located about 160 kilometers (approximately 100 miles) from the launch site, in early August. They remained at the base until at least September 26. The same type of aircraft were also located near the test site during the Burevestnik tests in 2018, writes The New York Times.

Separately, U.S. surveillance planes flew near the launch site in September. According to Flightradar24, the RC-135W Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft made at least two such flights on September 19 and 26.

The New York Times writes that due to the project’s secrecy and the launch site’s remote location, it’s impossible to determine with certainty whether the tests are planned or have already been conducted. The newspaper also said that Russia may be testing the missile’s individual components.

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