International desk – Russia has announced its preparedness for building a space plane that could fire nuclear weapons anywhere on Earth within two hours.
The plane is going to be functional in 2020, Russia’s military told the state-owned news site Sputnik this week.
The plane itself is similar to the US Air Force’s reusable Boeing X-37 (X-37B) robotic mini-shuttle, which is sort of a miniature, remote-controlled version of the International Space Station.
Many companies and governments are working on similar planes, but Russia has announced that they plan to store nuclear warheads in their robotic plane.
The bomber will take off from a normal home airfield to patrol Russian airspace and upon command it will ascend into outer space, strike a target with nuclear warheads and then return to its home base, Lieutenant Colonel Aleksei Solodovnikov was quoted to have said by the news agency.
Russian government accused the United States of weaponising space by sending the versatile X-37B, which was not actually weaponised.
The accusation was made in April 2010, when the US Air Force launched the X-37B for the first time, and the Russian military accused them of sneaking weapons on board, breaching the Outer Space Treaty.
The treaty was signed back in 1967 by 104 countries, including the US and Russia, and it banned the militarisation of space.
The Russian craft might also be able to launch by itself. But that would require an engine capable of working in two ways: first burning liquid propellant to launch, and then being able to ‘breathe’ oxygen as fuel in order to reach supersonic speeds.
An engine that can do both these things, known as a combined-cycle engine, is something the US government has been working on for decades, but at the end of last year, a Russian official claimed the Kremlin had managed to do it.
“We have accomplished the task of developing a power plant for a plane that allows it to alternate between the air-breathing regime during a flight in the atmosphere and rocket propulsion regime during a flight in space,” an anonymous official from the Strategic Missile Forces Academy told reporters in October 2015.