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• Russian state media says the missile can destroy an area the size of Texas or France, not the world. We could not find more objective reports detailing the same destructive power.
Even before Russian President Vladimir Putin put the world on notice about his country’s nuclear capabilities, social media claims floated theories about its firepower.
One Feb. 25 post on Facebook says that Russia unveiled a nuclear weapon, "Satan 2," that is "capable of destroying everything breathing in the world." The post includes photos that appear to show the actual weapon.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The RS-28 Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, unveiled in 2016, is capable of destroying an area the size of Texas or France, according to a 2016 report by Sputnik, a state-backed Russian news agency. We could not find more objective reports detailing the same destructive power.
"Known colloquially as ‘Satan 2,’ the missile will replace the RS-36M — which was dubbed ‘Satan’ by NATO after entering service in the 1970s," NBC News reported in 2016.
Robert Kelley, a former nuclear weapons expert at the U.S. Department of Energy, told NBC News in 2016 that the missile’s range and destructive power would likely be about the same as its predecessor, but "the reliability, flexibility and confidence (in the warheads' ability to hit their targets) will go way up." Kelley is now a distinguished associate fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
The weapon has a capacity of 10 to 15 warheads, all of which can target a different location, according to Newsweek.
"Individual warheads would strike distinct targets within a very limited ballistic ‘footprint,’ or many warheads from the same missile would strike the same target, increasing the likelihood of destroying that target completely," according to a 2021 report from EurAsian Times.
We rate the claim that a Russian nuclear weapon dubbed Satan 2 is "capable of destroying everything breathing in the world" False.
Associated Press, "Putin puts nuclear forces on high alert, escalating tensions," Feb. 28
Congressional Research Service, "Russia’s Nuclear Weapons: Doctrine,Forces,and Modernization," updated March 1, 2022
CSIS Missile Defense Project, "RS-28 Sarmat," updated July 31, 2021
EurAsian Times, "‘The Samrat Of Missiles’: Russia Gears Up To Deploy Its Superheavy, Hypersonic & Biggest Weapon Of Mass Destruction – Sarmat ICBM," Dec. 18, 2021
Facebook post, Feb. 25, 2022
NBC News, "Russia Unveils RS-28 Sarmat 'Satan 2' Nuclear Missile," Oct. 26, 2016
Sputnik, "Russia's New ICBM Sarmat Can Penetrate Defense Shield, Wipe Out Texas," Aug. 5, 2016
TASS, "First test launch of Sarmat ICBM postponed to 2022 — source," Dec. 20, 2021
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