Russia’s Skyfall Nuclear-Powered Cruise Missile

The Burevestnik cruise missile—known in Russia as the SSC-X-9 Skyfall—uses a miniature nuclear reactor as its power source to provide unlimited range. This means that the missile could carry nuclear or conventional warheads to any target on the globe, maneuvering to avoid missile defenses along the way. The nuclear reactor powers an electric motor that drives a turbine. The turbine draws in air that is then compressed and expelled for propulsion.  Airflow over the reactor’s elements prevents it from overheating. The nuclear-powered propulsion system is activated only after the missile achieves sufficient speed after launch assisted by a liquid-fueled rocket booster. Movements of aircraft and vehicles at and near a base in Russia’s remote Arctic region are consistent with preparations that were made for tests of the missile, known as the Burevestnik or SSC-X-9 Skyfall, in 2017 and 2018, according to a New York Times analysis. Russia previously conducted 13 known tests between 2017 and 2019, all of which were unsuccessful, according to a report from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a nonprofit group focused on arms control. Watch a video on Skyfall production, here, and see President Putin announce the Burevestnik, here. For more information, visit