A new Russian nuclear-powered missile highly touted by Russia's leadership has so far been a dud, according to U.S. intelligence sources who say it has crashed in every test to date.
During his state of the nation address in March, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow had developed an arsenal of new "invincible" hypersonic weapons intended to avoid interception, including a nuclear-powered cruise missile
"The missile's test-launch and ground trials make it possible to create a brand-new weapon, a strategic nuclear missile powered by a nuclear engine," Putin boasted. "The range is unlimited. It can maneuver for an unlimited period of time."
The United States largely shrugged off the missile at the time, saying it did not pose a threat. On Monday, sources told CNBC that the truth was even more stark; the supposedly "unlimited" missile never flew for more than a few minutes in tests.
"The cruise missile was tested four times between November and February, each resulting in a crash, according to sources who spoke to CNBC on the condition of anonymity," the outlet reported. The longest test flight lasted only two minutes and flew 22 miles before crashing. The shortest test saw the missile crash after only four seconds.
The main problem, sources say, is that the missile cannot effectively switch from its standard gas-powered engine to the nuclear one that is supposed to give it unlimited range. CNBC reports that senior Kremlin officials ordered the tests over engineers' protests that the missile was not ready.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, on Tuesday denied the reported test failures.
"Listen to the president of Russia Vladimir Putin and believe him," he said.
The report of the missile's failures came one week after U.S. officials warned that Russia had successfully tested hypersonic vehicles that can carry nuclear warheads and evade current missile defense systems.