#PutinAtWar: Putin Launches Four Missiles

Putin allegedly launches missile exercise in response to Trump’s comments

(Source: YouTube)

On October 26th, the Russian Ministry of Defense released a statement announcing four intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) successfully hit designated targets. Fortunately, the ICBMs were armed with dummy warheads. The event was yet another Russian strategic nuclear forces exercise; however, President Vladimir Putin allegedly launched the missiles himself.

Reports stated the exercise was a response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s harsh rhetoric towards North Korea and six-party talks, of which Russia is a part.

According to the statement released by the Russian MoD, the launches were part of the routine exercise of Russian nuclear forces. Two missiles were launched from a submarine in the Sea of Okhotsk and hit a target in the Chizha test range on the Kanin Peninsula, Northern Russia. Meanwhile in the Barents Sea, a Northern Fleet submarine launched another ICBM towards the Kura test range on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The last ICBM was launched from Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Arkhangelsk region. The missile flew over most of Russia’s mainland territory, before the dummy warhead reached its target at Kura test range. Russian MoD did not reveal the type of missiles fired during the exercise. The type of submarines involved in the drill were similarly unspecified.

Russian MoD shared a video on YouTube the same day of the exercise, providing limited footage of the actual ICBM launches. The footage showed the launch from Plesetsk Cosmodrome (Russian: Космодром «Плесецк»), strategic bombers taking off from airfields and the submarine ICBM launch.

The exercise took place at night; therefore, video footage provides little to no information for geolocation and equipment identification. The only confirmed, and visible, specific launch site in the video was the Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

There are a number of fairly similar launch sites in the area of Plesetsk Cosmodrome, containing similar infrastructure, nevertheless, Launch Complex 158 fits the video footage the best.

Launch Complex 158 in the territory of Plesetsk Cosmodrome. Left: (Source: GoogleMaps); Right: (Source: GoogleMaps).
Close-up of Launch Complex 158. Left: (Source: GoogleMaps); Top Right: (Source: YouTube); Bottom Right: (Source: YouTube)
Preliminary distance of the ICBM launch (Source: GoogleMaps)

The ICBM launched from Plesetsk flew over most of Russian territory and landed in Kura Missile Test Range in Kamchatka Penninsula. The ICBM flew approximately 5700km before hitting the target.

Regardless of the impetus, the exercise is considered to be one of the most massive missile drills in post-Soviet history. ICBMs were launched from different parts of Russia simultaneously and successfully hit all the designated targets. President Putin firing all four ICBMs himself is a significant point of emphasis.

@DFRLab will continue to monitor developments and further Russian military exercises.


Lukas Andriukaitis is a Digital Forensic Research Associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (@DFRLab).

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