Russian scientists built a new simulator to train soldiers for nuclear explosions, state media says.
The simulator is set to be used in military exercises to prepare troops for post-blast missions.
Amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West, Putin has often rattled the nuclear saber.
Russian scientists have created a new simulator to train Moscow's troops on how to operate in the event of a nuclear explosion, a state-media report said this week.
The simulator, which was patented by scientists at the General A. V. Khrulev Military Academy of Logistics, is set to be used in military exercises to prepare Russian ground forces for post-explosion combat missions, the state-run Tass news agency reported on Tuesday.
State media said the simulator would also instruct chemical, biological, and radiation reconnaissance teams on how to find the epicenter and determine the characteristics of a blast.
"The purpose of the model is to simulate what a nuclear strike looks like — the shock effect, flash of light and mushroom cloud of a ground-based nuclear explosion," the description of the simulator's patent says, according to Tass.
Russia's previous nuclear-explosion simulator is no longer produced, Russian media said, and other simulators that have been kept in storage are either no longer functional or not permitted to be used anymore. It's unclear whether the new nuclear-explosion simulator system is ready to go.
Moscow has the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world, with nearly 5,900 warheads, according to a tally by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. The next-biggest stockpile belongs to the US, which has a little over 5,200 warheads.
The US is working toward upgrading its silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, building new bombers, and developing ballistic-missile submarines. In October, the Pentagon announced that it would pursue a new variant of the B61 nuclear gravity bomb, an air-launched weapon to be designated the B61-13, pending approval from lawmakers.
"Today's announcement is reflective of a changing security environment and growing threats from potential adversaries," John Plumb, the assistant secretary of defense for space policy, said at the time, adding: "The United States has a responsibility to continue to assess and field the capabilities we need to credibly deter and, if necessary, respond to strategic attacks, and assure our allies."
US rivals are also advancing their nuclear capabilities. In the fall, Russia deployed a new ICBM that the Russian leader once said would make the country's enemies "think twice."
The Tass report comes amid heightened tension stemming from Russia's war against Ukraine and just one day after the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank published an assessment on Russia's arsenal of nonstrategic nuclear weapons, or tactical nuclear weapons, and the scenarios in which these weapons might be used.
The IISS assessment, which was funded by the Russia Strategic Initiative of US European Command, said that Russian President Vladimir Putin viewed nonstrategic nuclear weapons as a tool that could be used to coerce adversaries, mitigate escalation of a conflict and prevent outside intervention, and control the terms of wartime negotiations.
Tactical nuclear weapons have arisen as a point of debate and discussion during the fighting in Ukraine.
The recent IISS assessment suggested that amid Russia's war in Ukraine, Moscow had viewed its nuclear arsenal as an asset to "increase its coercive power" against NATO and likely discount the US stockpile as a "significant threat."
"The Russian perception of the lack of credible Western will to use nuclear weapons or to accept casualties in conflict further reinforces Russia's aggressive NSNW thought and doctrine," the IISS report said.
Throughout the war in Ukraine, senior Russian officials, including Putin himself, have drawn criticism for their commentary related to the use of nuclear weapons. In the early days of the full-scale invasion, for example, Putin placed his nuclear-deterrent forces on high alert after receiving a slew of international sanctions.
Several weeks later, a Kremlin spokesperson said Moscow would use nuclear weapons if it felt like it faced an existential threat. At the time, the top UN official said that nuclear war was back "within the realm of possibility."
Western leaders, including NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, have pushed back against Russia's provocative remarks and accused the country of "nuclear saber-rattling."
In one alarming move last summer, Putin moved tactical nuclear weapons from Russia to Belarus, one of the few states that have remained aligned with Moscow. The Russian leader described the escalatory move as a preventive measure against a "strategic defeat" in Ukraine.
Despite moves like these, some observers have questioned whether Putin would use such weapons. It's unclear, but they escalate tensions all the same.
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