By Will Stewart In Moscow for MailOnline
Published: 10:31 BST, 13 September 2019 | Updated: 16:44 BST, 13 September 2019
A new Russian nuclear-powered missile - capable of flying for days on end as it probes weaknesses in Western defences - is to be ready for deployment earlier than expected.
This is according to a US intelligence assessment which forecasts that the nuclear-powered Burevestnik super weapon will be ready to go to war within the next six years.
The view comes despite last month’s explosion during a missile test of a 'doomsday' weapon in the White Sea, leading to a radiation leak in which at least five scientists and technicians died, and others were poisoned.
Some accounts have linked the incident to the Burevestnik, although various experts dispute this, but the Kremlin has refused to reveal the truth.
A new Russian nuclear-powered missile - capable of flying for days on end as it probes weaknesses in Western defences - is to be ready for deployment earlier than expected
Modern cruise missiles use turbojet or turbofan engines and typically have ranges of 1,000 miles or so, a limit that is dictated by their fuel supply.
A nuclear-powered cruise missile could fly for much longer, perhaps staying aloft for days and flying intricate routes to exploit holes in enemy air defenses.
If Burevestnik becomes operational, Russia will be able to program its missiles to travel around the globe using any possible route - not just the shortest to save on fuel.
Most applications of nuclear energy simply swap a nuclear reaction out for whatever they previously used as a source of thermal energy.
In nuclear power plants and shipboard nuclear propulsion, for example, fission took the place of coal and oil burned to turn water into the steam used to spin turbines.
The same principle, in theory, works for multiple types of aircraft propulsion, but