Putin's Name-That-Nuke Contest Draws Thousands of Entries

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Vladimir Putin and Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov watch a military exercise at a training ground at the Luzhsky Range, near St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 18, 2017. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) -- The Associated Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin's name-that-nuclear weapon contest for the "invincible" new additions to his arsenal of doomsday machines has already drawn thousands of entries, according to Russian state media.

Right after Putin boasted last Thursday of having several new weapons either fielded or in development, the Russian Ministry of Defense invited the public to send in names to a web portal for three of them -- a nuclear-propelled underwater drone, a nuclear cruise missile and a high-powered combat laser.

One early suggestion for the underwater drone, which supposedly would explode outside an enemy port city and set off a radioactive tsunami, is that it be called the "Volodya," a diminutive for "Vladimir."

That suggestion reportedly came from Margarita Simonyan, head of Russia's state-controlled RT network -- which the U.S. has labeled a propaganda outlet.

Another suggestion for the drone's name is "Kraken," for the fictional Arctic sea monster.

The Associated Press reported that Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of the Russian province of Chechnya, said the nuclear cruise missile should be called the "Palmyra," after the historic heritage site in Syria that was taken from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) by Syrian regime forces with Russian air support.

The AP said some of the entries are of the four-letter variety while others are digs at the U.S.

One suggestion is that the cruise missile be called "Sanction," a sarcastic reference to U.S. sanctions on Russia for its actions against Ukraine, and another said the cruise missile should be called "Thaw," meaning that the threat it posed would force the U.S. to lift the sanctions.

Americans could also play in the contest. The Russian Embassy in Washington on Friday tweeted a link to the Russian Defense Ministry's website. RT reported that some of the initial U.S. entries were vulgar references to the physical appearances of President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.

RT also noted that the military of the former Soviet Union and Russia has sometimes settled on "choosing peculiar names for its weaponry, which seldom seems suited to any kind of war machine."

Various artillery pieces and command vehicles have been named "Pinocchio," or "Female Gardener," or even "Cabbage Fest," RT said.

In addition to the three weapons chosen for the naming contest, Putin, in his "State of the Nation" speech last Thursday, also claimed to have a new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) carrying multiple warheads and decoys for outwitting anti-missile defenses.

In an unsubtle message to Trump, Putin showed a video simulation of the ICBM deploying warheads over Florida, where Trump has his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Putin also claimed to have a "hypersonic" nuclear cruise missile that would be launched from a bomber and would evade any existing defenses.

In a speech Friday in Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea, Putin said he is amazed at the technological prowess shown by the Russia state in developing the weapons.

He said the underwater drone "goes faster than any surface ship that exists today. I wouldn't even tell you the speed, it's incredible."

The hypersonic cruise missile "flies at a speed 20 times the speed of sound," he said, "and it can maneuver thousands of kilometers up and down and right to left. It's like science fiction."

The Pentagon and the White House have thus far professed to be unimpressed by Putin's claims. "We're prepared to defend this nation no matter what" Putin might add to his arsenal of nuclear weapons, Dana White, the Pentagon's chief spokesperson, said last Thursday after Putin's speech.

At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a statement: "U.S. defense capabilities are and will remain second to none."

The U.S. also has occasionally run contests to name new weapons, most recently for the naming of the new, stealthy B-21 "Raider" long-range bomber, which is now in development.

In 2016, then-Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James invited Air Force personnel to send in suggestions for the bomber's name, and more than 4,600 entries were submitted.

Some of the other suggestions were that it be called the "Stingray," or the "Victory," or the "Ghost."

Some of the snarkier suggestions would have called it the "Budget Overrun" or the "Albatross."

James finally settled on "Raider," to honor the "Doolittle Raiders," led by Gen. James Harold "Jimmy" Doolittle, who bombed Tokyo in World War II.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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