Russian state media is reporting that the country's Defense
Ministry is developing a nuclear-armed bomber than could
launch attacks from space. A prototype aircraft is under
development and will be ready for trials by 2020.
According to RIA Novosti, the engine, for the spaceplane,
has already been tested and is expected to make its public
debut in September at the International Military Technology
Forum. The report quotes a Lieutenant Colonel Solodovnikov,
who states the plane will take off and patrol the skies like
a regular bomber. Once given the command, the bomber would
ascend into space and could hit any target on Earth with
nuclear warheads within one or two hours.
Russia's Ministry of Defense has denied reports a space
bomber is in development, saying it was "out of the
question" but not outside its technical level of expertise.
The Ministry says that remarks about a hypothetical
spacecraft were misinterpreted by the state-run press. While
a denial is a denial, the exact date for the engine's public
debut is curious. It could be that the engine is real, and
that a space bomber was a hypothetical use.
It would weigh "between 20 and 25 metric tons." That is not
much for a plane—in fact, it's roughly the mass of the
F/A-18E Super Hornet. And yet somehow, a plane that light is
supposed to carry at least one nuclear weapon, fly like a
regular aircraft, power itself into space, and then return
to base, all on its own.
The Russians did have the Buran spacecraft, which was a
smaller version of the US space shuttle The construction
of the Buran-class space shuttle orbiters began in 1980, and
by 1984 the first full-scale orbiter was rolled out.
Construction of a second orbiter (OK-1K2, informally known
as "Ptichka") started in 1988. The Buran programme was
officially cancelled in 1993.
Russia has previously proposed an orbital spaceplane,
called cosmoplane. It would be capable of transporting
passengers has been proposed by Russia's Institute of
Applied Mechanics. According to researchers, it could take
about 20 minutes to fly from Moscow to Paris, using hydrogen
and oxygen-fueled engines.