top of page
  • Writer's pictureMuhammed Said Bilal Dolar


In today's article I am going to talk about 9M730 Burevestnik aka Skyfall and basicly discuss about Nuclear propulsion systems. Initially, I want to mention that Information, which was provided by Russian Government and other pro-Russian sources, may not be thruthfull.

Nuclear propulsion systems usually used as combustion chambers in jet or ramjet engines. Usually, the temperatures in nuclear propulsion system is about 1200-1500 Celsius degree. As a result, it could be used in ramjet and turbojet engines effectively. For cheap fuel price, sustainability, and longevity, it was a main topic for decades in Aerospace industry. Today there are some research works and projects in process which will help people reach far planets such as Mars for smaller time periods.

What we know about Burevestnik?

Russia began development of similar to Skyfall systems after the Star Wars Program had nullified the balistic abilities ,at that time, of USSR. Consequently, USSR began development of its own balistic missile countermeasures system, but this system is topic of another article. Development of the missiles such as Skyfall wasn't first done by Russia. USA in 60s had tried to develop a bomber missile(SLAM), but its mission was disparate compared to Skyfall. However, both use similar tactic: to not be engaged by a countermeasure by using low altitude cruise. Let's see features of this system:

Length: 12(launch)- 9(cruising) m

Diameter: 1.75- 1 m

Speed: Subsonic

Weight: Heavier than X-101 ( more than 2400kg )

Warhead type: Nuclear and Conventional

Range: Unlimited

Engine type: Ramjet or Turbojet

The Countermeasures

According to information, which was provided by the Russian government and other pro-Russian sources, this missile doesn't have yet any competitors, and if true can't be countered by countermeasure systems. By the way, Russia improved its cruise missiles with countermeasures against the SAM and AAM missiles. During Russian Invasion of Ukraine we saw downed missiles that had flare&chaf launchers and also some EW systems. Furthermore, Russia improved its capabilities over countermeasure systems(modernization of KA-52 with EW modules that allowed countermeasure the MANPADs and other similar systems such as Stinger).

The picture which was showed in Russian Ministry of Defence's Youtube channel

Skyfall also has features like making maneuvers during flight to disengage threats. This feature was demonstrated in video which shared by Russian Ministry of Defence.

The Engine and Speed

I want to make a speculation about the engine type. The video, which was shared by the Russian Ministry of Defense , shows launch moment of the Skyfall missile. According to video, I can state that the missile has 2 rocket types on board. The most imminent and obvious one, booster rocket, and rocket system that located missile's sides, probably next stage boosters. I speculated about the latter, for I saw evidence in the launch video. In the image we can see flames coming from the rocket's left and right sides. To confirm that this boosters are that ones which help to achieve supersonic speeds to use effectively ramjet engine I said previously at the end of the rocket we can see a main rocket booster that helps to launch rocket from missile storage container and achieve a speed that would be enough for flying. So if this rocket works as booster why the other rockets, which located beside the missile, needed? There is a speculated explanation; I mentioned SLAM, and it has the same system too. Probably there is similarities between this project more than the nuclear fusion engine: like rocket boosters combination which is required from this missile to achieve high speeds. The reason behind this combination similarities stands probably some Mechanical reasons regard to this type of missiles.

The rockets which designated by number 31 is boosters that helps to achieve supersonic speeds to activate ramjet motor.

The rocket designated by number 1 is a ramjet booster. The rocket designated with number 2 is a first stage booster which helps to launch missile from the storage container.

Note: I must say that this speculation might be wrong; it is a product of analogy between SLAM and Skyfall.

It was hard to find information about the speed of cruise missile; there was just one source, which was a interview with James Hockenhull who said "sub-sonic nuclear-powered cruise missile system which has global reach and would allow attack from unexpected directions", that stated its speed was subsonic. However, I watched launch videos and read speculations about the engine; now, I am confident and can make assertion about the cruise speed; it's supersonic. How I came to this conclusion? Well I said that probably rocket boosters that located besides of the missile was for achieving supersonic speeds to run effectively the ramjet engine. Many sources claims that engine used in Skyfall was turbojet engine, but if the speculation that I made was true, we able to say Skyfall uses ramjet engine setup. If Skyfall uses ramjet engine it must fly at speeds above supersonic to use effectively the engines features such as high fuel efficiency and high rate of thrust.

Technological progress helped decrease the sizes and increase effectiveness of ramjet engine.

From the shared video materials we can observe an intake which is located under the body.Intake looks similar to ones which used with Ramjet engines.

To sum up, I made some speculations according to an image and a video released by the Russian Ministry of Defense. That speculations was made in order to clarify that missile uses an ramjet and cruises at supersonic speeds.

The Fuel

Obviously, the fuel is a element which is hyper active. Probably, Russians used the same fuel as US in project Pluto( the engine of SLAM): highly enriched uranium. Also, the nuclear engines must be moderated and controlled through some complex chemical reactions; like, there is in a car a carburator or fuel injection system that regulates the gas and oxygen amount entering engine. But, I think that this system is more basic than in SLAM; because the missile operates just one time in its lifetime. In order to make Skyfall more cheap Russians may used basic fuel control system. The amount of fuel is enough for the missile operate for 3 months.

The Warhead

Still, there isn't any data about the warhead, but it is obvious that missile has nuclear warhead capabilities and maybe also has conventional warhead like well known tnt.

The Exhaust System

As you know, radiation is a big threat for organisms and also for environment. SLAM project had few reasons for cancelation; one of them was the radioactive exhaust. While flying over the oceans, seas, countries, city's, and homes it would polute the air and environment over it flies. It wasn't restricted data that Tory engines had a radioctive propulsion; however, about Skyfall there isn't any official or well speculated data. I think that the technological progress for 50 years helped solve this problem, but the nuclear propulsion systems isn't a technology which worked on for a long time. For this reason, this is a thing that won't be certain during a period of time. Also, I asked about this occasion to my chemistry teacher. To be axact, I asked can gamma rays, which is a type of electromagnetic radiation, affect the air by making it radioactive; He said just that it is impossible. I made research about this topic and found information on Wikipedia that supported my teachers speculation. It can just change Ions or normal state elements to Ions actually Ionizing it. So we can conclude that it won't affect the atmosphere much; just in case of fuel leak, it would polute the atmosphere with rodiactive materials.

To support, I am going to provide sources.

"The gamma radiation level was fairly high due to the lack of shielding; radiation hardening for the guidance electronics had to be designed."

"A gamma ray, also known as gamma radiation (symbol γ), is a penetrating form of electromagnetic radiation arising from the radioactive decay of atomic nuclei."

"At higher frequencies (visible and beyond), the effects of individual photons begin to become important, as these now have enough energy individually to directly or indirectly damage biological molecules. All UV frequencies have been classed as Group 1 carcinogens by the World Health Organization. Ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure is the primary cause of skin cancer.

Thus, at UV frequencies and higher (and probably somewhat also in the visible range), electromagnetic radiation does more damage to biological systems than simple heating predicts. This is most obvious in the "far" (or "extreme") ultraviolet. UV, with X-ray and gamma radiation, are referred to as ionizing radiation due to the ability of photons of this radiation to produce ions and free radicals in materials (including living tissue). Since such radiation can severely damage life at energy levels that produce little heating, it is considered far more dangerous (in terms of damage-produced per unit of energy, or power) than the rest of the electromagnetic spectrum."

"Ionizing radiation (or ionising radiation), including nuclear radiation, consists of subatomic particles or electromagnetic waves that have sufficient energy to ionize atoms or molecules by detaching electrons from them."


The missile looks promising with its abilities travel at supersonic speeds and disengage threats during the flight. There is just one question: how it will be used?

7 views0 comments


bottom of page