These weapons were used in Putin’s nuclear thunder exercise

Vladimir Putin had invited Belarus despot Aleksandr Lukashenko to sit side by side when watching the screens on the wall in Kremlin's situation room as Russia’s military commanders showcased coordinated testing of the country’s nuclear triad on Saturday.
February 19, 2022


Northwest-Russia and the Barents Sea was one of four playgrounds for the pre-announced Grom-2022 strategic nuclear drill. Grom is Russian for Thunder. 

The nuclear triad is a three-pronged military force structure that consists of land-launched nuclear missiles, nuclear-missile-armed submarines, and strategic aircraft with nuclear bombs and missiles. Like similar Grom drills in 2019 and 2020, the armed forces included cruise missiles as an important component in this year’s exercise. 

Putin was satisfied with what he saw.

“The tasks envisaged during the exercise of the strategic deterrence forces were completed in full, all missiles hit their targets, confirming the specified characteristics,” a statement from the Kremlin said.

Read also: Barents Sea has a key role in Putin’s nuke game 

On the screens in front of him, Putin could talk directly with military commanders, like Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Force General Valery Gerasimov, Northern Fleet Commander Admiral Aleksandr Moiseev, and Navy Commander Admiral Nikolai Evmenov. 

“The main objective of these exercises is to perfect the performance of our strategic offensive forces, with the aim of delivering a guaranteed strike against the enemy,” chief of the general staff Valery Gerasimov told Putin in televised comments.


Geopolitical context 

Senior Research Fellow Kristian Åtland with the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) says to the Barents Observer that “Given the character and magnitude of the exercise, and the geopolitical context in which it takes place, it adds to the already tense relationship between Russia and NATO.”

Åtland says the main purpose of the exercise is to demonstrate the combat readiness of Russia’s air-, land- and sea-based strategic nuclear forces, in the European Arctic as well as in other regions. Non-strategic weapon systems, such as hypersonic and cruise missiles, are also being tested as part of the exercise.

Ships and submarines of the Northern Fleet and the Black Sea Fleet launched Kalibr cruise missiles and Zirkon hypersonic cruise missiles at sea and ground targets, the Defense Ministry in Moscow informs.

One of the Northern Fleet’s Yasen-class submarines launched a Kalibr cruise missile from the Barents Sea, a video from the Defense Ministry shows while another video shows the launch of a Kalibr missile from the Northern Fleet frigate “Admiral Gorshkov”, A third video shows a Kalibr launch from a Kilo-class diesel-powered submarine, but its location is not stated. 

Some of the videos said to be from Saturday’s exercise, however, are obviously based on older archive film materials. 

Air-launched missiles 

MiG-31 fighter jets took off from an airfield on the Kola Peninsula and launched the new supersonic Kinzhal missiles towards targets at sea and land. According to the map in the situation room, the fighter jets were flying over the Barents Sea when launching towards a sea target south of Novaya Zemlya and an abandoned building structure at the Pemboy range near Vorkuta in the Komi Republic.



At the Kapustin Yar test site in Astrakhan region, one Iskander short-range cruise missile was launched

The strategic nuclear forces launched a Yars intercontinental ballistic missile from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in Arkhangelsk Oblast. The missile hit a target at the Kura range on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

Delta-IV “Karelia“ 

From a submerged position in the Barents Sea, the Northern Fleet’s Delta-IV class submarine Karelia launched a Sineva missile, also targeting the Kura range.

“Today’s «Sineva» launch from a Delta-IV submarine in the Barents Sea did not come as a surprise. It has been expected for some time that Russia would conduct a major strategic nuclear forces exercise early in 2022, as announced by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in December last year,” Kristian Åtland says.

Air-launched cruise missiles were fired from Tu-95 long-range strategic bombers. The planes were flying both in eastern Russia and the northwestern region and with missiles that hit targets at the Pemboy and Kura ranges, according to the official statement by the Defense Ministry.






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