VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Claim on latest Russian missile’s destructive power FALSE


A Facebook (FB) post claimed that a nuclear weapon from Russia called the “Satan 2,” a liquid-fueled missile, is capable of “destroying everything breathing in the world.” The claim is an exaggeration.

The reported projection of its destructive capability is the size of the state of Texas, according to Russia’s TV Zvezda (Star), owned by Russia’s defense ministry. Meanwhile, Russian state-owned news agency and radio network Sputnik (Satellite) reported it could affect an area as large as France.

The 40-megaton missile is said to be 2,000 times more powerful than the bomb which wiped out Hiroshima, according to a 2016 report by Russian news site Pravda (Truth).

There are varying projections of the weapon’s impact, but the belief is it can destroy the United Kingdom in one blast. Nuclear fallout in nearby states and countries will depend on wind velocity and direction. The fireball radius, air blast, and thermal radiation hinges on where it hits.

Russia’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) called the RS-28 Sarmat, nicknamed “Satan 2,” replaces the RS-36 (SS-18 Satan) ICBM developed by the Soviet Union from the 1960s to 1970s. It was unveiled and tested in 2018.

ICBMs travel a wide arc, giving them the ability to strike half-way across the world within an hour.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a state of the nation speech on Mar. 1, 2018, then told the Federal Assembly in Moscow that this “unstoppable” nuclear-powered “global cruise missile” has practically “unlimited range” and is immune to any missile defense.

The RS-28 Sarmat is a three-stage, liquid-fueled missile with a range of 18,000 kilometers and has a launch weight of over 200 tons. It can carry a payload of up to 10 tons containing multiple warheads, according to a July 31, 2021 article by the U.S.-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Vladimir Degtyar, a rocket scientist of the Academician V.P.Makeyev State Rocket Centre, said that the missile with its increased trajectory is effective in bypassing space, ground, and sea missile defense systems as it can travel via the South Pole, instead of the shorter North pole route, preventing US satellites from tracking it.

Aside from using decoys to confuse ballistic missile systems on the warheads’ real location, the missile can travel ten times faster than the speed of sound which makes it much more difficult to intercept, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said in a Dec. 3, 2018 article of Russian paper Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star).

The false post by FB page Trending now (created on June 22, 2019) garnered over 7,200 interactions. It appeared two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a special military operation to invade former Soviet Union member Ukraine.

Nigeria-based FB pages African History Archive (created on July 21, 2016), Whyte TV (June 2, 2021), and local FB page Noypi Lang Sakalam (Sept. 15, 2021), as well as a Filipino netizen in FB group SPORTS AND POLITICS UPDATES (June 1, 2019), reshared the misleading claim. The four posts garnered a total of over 83,300 interactions.

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(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)