An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Daily Beast: The Russian military claims it's making progress on a space plane similar to the U.S. Air Force's secretive X-37B robotic mini-shuttle. The tech is pretty basic. But alone among space-plane developers, the Kremlin is proposing to arm its space plane. With nukes. Lt. Col. Aleksei Solodovnikov, a rocketry instructor at the Russian Strategic Missile Forces Academy in St. Petersburg who is overseeing the space plane's development, said the orbital bomber would be flight-ready by 2020. It's unclear how much money the Kremlin is investing in the project, and how serious senior officers are about actually deploying the space plane, if and when Solodovnikov and his team finish it. In any event, the military space plane could give Russia a potentially history-altering nuclear first-strike capability. "The idea is that the bomber will take off from a normal home airfield to patrol Russian airspace," Solodovnikov said, according to Sputnik, a government-owned news site. "Upon command, it will ascend into outer space, strike a target with nuclear warheads and then return to its home base." Thanks to its orbital capability, the bomber would be able to nuke any target on Earth no longer than two hours after taking off, Solodovnikov claimed.
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