Russia is a declining superpower. Russia economy is tiny compared to the US and is now also tiny compared to China. Russia’s military budget is now five times less than China and ten times less than the USA. Russia controlled eastern Europe as the USSR. They were a superpower for decades despite the economic power of the USSR being half of the USA. The USSR spent far more of its economy on its military and built high volumes of tanks, planes and nuclear weapons.
Russias economy and military budget are becoming smaller and smaller relative to the USA and China. The Russian military budget is about $60 billion and only $30 billion on buying weapons aka procurement. China spends about $200-300 billion on its military and the USA spends $750 billion. China and the USA are growing their economies and military budgets. Russia is being forced to choose between being militarily weak and irrelevant or gambling on making crazy nuclear superweapon systems. Putin has already chosen to go down the make crazy nuclear superweapons path.
Russia knew about airplanes with nuclear reactors engines for decades and all of the other dangerous but abandoned ways to use nuclear weapons. The Russians are leveraging their nuclear reactor and nuclear bomb capabilities to realize old dangerous superweapons. They are clearly building a nuclear-powered airplane and a drone submarine with a massive nuclear weapon. Anyone who says that Putin will choose not to make a particular superweapon because he SHOULD not is wrong. Putin is only considering the questions related to CAN we build it. Can Russia afford it and can it be done. There is almost no consideration for should related questions.
Russia has less military budget but materials for twenty thousand nuclear bombs and a lot of nuclear and weapons knowledge. Russia can keep pace with larger American and Chinese military budgets by being willing to develop dangerous but relatively low-cost and lower-technology capabilities leveraging nuclear weapons.
The US nuclear-powered airplane project in the 1960s was called Project Pluto. Details about project Pluto are below. The recent explosion of a test vehicle in Russia was likely their version of a nuclear-powered airplane. The technology was simple. You make a compact nuclear reactor like those on a submarine and then make it lighter by not including any radiation shielding. This means there is power for years of flying. The reactor generates heat at over a thousand degrees which would then be used for simplified jet propulsion. The chemicals would not need to be consumed to generate the high jet temperatures but would be more efficiently heated by the unshielded nuclear reactor. The US Project Pluto showed that this design could achieve virtually unlimited mach 3 low altitude flight.
Artist rendering of a nuclear reactor powered jet missile
The unmanned nuclear engine aircraft was never banned in any weapons treaty.
The Russians could use 150 kiloton or smaller devices for the propulsion and weapons of a Nuclear Orion Battleship. They could test the propulsion nuclear bombs to generate chemical based plasma for the Nuclear Battleship.
Russia would have devote about 1000 to 1500 nuclear devices for each Nuclear Orion Battleship. Russia has the nuclear stockpile to make about five to ten 4000-ton flying interplanetary battleships.
There have been analysis made of what are the technical issues for reviving a Project Orion. Costs of a nuclear project Orion program could end up being less than the Apollo program.
The Russians could choose quick and dirty options to keep costs low. They could give up efficiency and optimizations to just use the steel forging capabilities that have for submarines and nuclear reactors and just minimally adapt the nuclear bombs that they have. They could just take a thousand or two thousand weapons from their stockpile and create the weapon for perhaps ten to twenty billion.
In the 1960s, the US Air Force believed the 4,000-ton version of the Orion would be rightsized for an interplanetary warship. It would have 500 twenty-megaton city-killer warheads, 5-inch Naval cannon turrets, six landing shuttles, and several hundred of Casaba Howitzer weapons.
Animations of nuclear battleship Orions fighting in space.
Nuclear Powered Orion Would Be Able to Land Hundreds on the Moon and Mars
A 4000-ton nuclear-powered Orion would be able to land hundreds of people on the moon and Mars and take about 1000-tons of supplies. Large fully assembled bases could be landed on the moon and Mars. Russia could use several hundred-megawatt submarine nuclear reactors to power large bases on the moon and Mars.
Nuclear Bomb Powered Beam or Range Weapon
The Casaba-Howitzer charges would be from sub-kiloton to several kilotons in yield. They would be launched on pancake booster rockets until they were far enough from the battleship to prevent damage (several hundred yards). They would explode and destroy targets with a spear of nuclear flame. The battleship would probably carry a stockpile of Casaba-Howitzer weapons in the low hundreds. This means an Orion Battleship would be able to destroy Naval Fleets and any massed military ground forces, military bases and devastate many cities.
Mr. Scott Lowther is an aerospace historian who has researched and considered the Casaba-Howitzer and all aspects of Project Orion. He estimates that each Casaba-Howitzer round would have a yield up to a few kilotons and could deliver close to 50% of that energy in the spear of nuclear flame. Three kilotons is 1.26 × 10^13 joules, 50% of that is 6.28 × 10^12 joules per bolt. This is thirty-five times as powerful as a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb.
Project Orion Archival Footage
In the 1960s, the US had Project Pluto for nuclear-powered aircraft. Nuclear-powered ramjets would power a cruise missile, called SLAM, for Supersonic Low Altitude Missile. In order to reach ramjet speed, it would be launched from the ground by a cluster of conventional rocket boosters. Once it reached cruising altitude and was far away from populated areas, the nuclear reactor would be made critical. Since nuclear power gave it almost unlimited range, the missile could cruise in circles over the ocean until ordered “down to the deck” for its supersonic dash to targets in the Soviet Union. The SLAM as proposed would carry a payload of many nuclear weapons to be dropped on multiple targets, making the cruise missile into an unmanned bomber. After delivering all its warheads, the missile could then spend weeks flying over populated areas at low altitudes, causing tremendous ground damage with its shock wave and radiation from its unshielded reactor. When it finally lost enough power to fly, and crash-landed, the engine would have a good chance of spewing deadly radiation for months to come.
In 1957, the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory (later Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) began detailed design studies of ramjet propulsion reactors. The flight reactor was intended to have thermal power in excess of 500 megawatts, but to prove the concept a sub-scale reactor was built first. This reactor, designated Tory II-A, had a design power of 155 megawatts. It heated incoming air to a temperature of 1080 °C, and had a flow rate of 320 kg/sec.
With the success of Tory II-A, work began on Tory II-C, a full-scale, flight-weight reactor capable of sustained low altitude flight in excess of Mach 3. With design power of 500 megawatts and much greater airflow, the tank farm had to be expanded by a factor of ten, employing 40 km (25 miles) of oil well casing pipe, which took five days to fill with air.
SOURCES- theblackvault, Youtube, Wikipedia, Project Rho, Scott Lowther
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com