VLADIMIR Putin’s nuclear sabre rattling has left the world once again facing the prospect of a war that could annihilate the planet.
This week the tyrant ordered his forces to simulate a "massive nuclear strike" in response to a nuke attack on its soil and, according to a Russian colonel, rehearsed wiping Britain and the US off the map.
The exercise is a chilling reminder that both sides have huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons, primed to unleash Armageddon.
In response, the Pentagon has been carrying out its own missile tests and is understood to be planning to store an upgraded version of the bombs it stores in Europe.
Putin has previously bragged he will use nuclear weapons against the West if anyone interferes in Ukraine.
And fears are growing that he is escalating the threat as his botched invasion drags on into its ninth month.
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Disaster expert Paul Ingram has laid out the carnage that would ensue if Mad Vlad were to carry through with his threat.
He told The Sun the "blast and radiation would lead to casualties of 200 to 300million worldwide".
Ingram, from the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, also warned of apocalyptic aftershocks from any nuclear conflict.
"On top of the immediate deaths, the all-out nuclear exchange would throw up so much radioactive soot that it would obscure the sun for several years," he said.
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"This would lead to the deaths of up to five billion people worldwide."
If were to carry out his threat, the Russian tyrant has at his disposal a terrifying arsenal of around 6,000 warheads.
In comparison, the US has 5,428 while France has 290 and the UK has 225.
Each warhead is itself a mini-nuclear bomb and several are usually packed into each weapon.
Every warhead in modern nuclear weapons have an explosive power many times that of atomic bombs that flattened the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The weapons that are likely to be fired against Western cities come in the form of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM), missiles fired from submarines and those launched from warplanes.
Russia also has tactical weapons that are used on the battlefield or fired from torpedoes.
Russia’s main ICBM has the suitably chilling name of Satan-2 and has then height of a 14-storey tower block.
The 208 ton missile is capable of striking targets at almost 16,000mph and can hit the UK within 20 minutes.
Also in their armoury is the Kinzhal hypersonic missile that’s launched from planes and can carry both nuclear and conventional warheads.
Just how powerful are nuclear weapons?
The power of a nuclear weapon is measured the equivalent amount of TNT needed to produce the same explosion.
American bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had yields of 15 and 21 kilotons, respectively, so equivalent to 15,000 tons and 21,000 tons of TNT.
Compared to those bombs, modern strategic nuclear weapons have enormous power.
Standard ones can have yields of 500 kilotons, 800 kilotons and even 1 megaton, equivalent to 1 million tons of TNT.
Russia holds the record for the most powerful weapon ever exploded.
In 1961, it tested a bomb of at least 50 megatons, nicknamed ‘Tsar Bomba’ or the ruler of all bombs.
Russia has boasted that the missile is “unstoppable” and it was unleased on Ukraine in the early days of the Ukraine war.
But launching such weapons would come with a huge amount of risk for Putin.
Meanwhile, the mainstay of the US ICBM force is the Minuteman III, which dates back to the Cold War.
There are around 400 of the missiles in the US inventory and can be controlled from airborne command posts in the event of war.
Its seaborne nuclear forces are carried in the US Navy’s Ohio Class long-range submarines, known as boomers.
They are stealthy and can launch nuclear missile strikes and are considered a key strategic deterrent.
The submarines are equipped with Trident II D-5 missiles and are split between bases at Bangor, Washington, and King’s Bay, Georgia
They represents one leg of the US nuclear “triad,” along with the Air Force’s long-range B-2 and B-52 bombers, which carry nuclear capable cruise missiles.
The US isn't the only Western country with nuclear weapons that could hit back at Putin.
The UK has four Trident submarines with around 20O warheads.
All of the submarines are famously issued with a "letter of last resort", written by the prime minister and detailing what to do if Britain is devastated by a nuclear attack.
We are far better prepared for cyberattacks than we are for nuclear war
The current estimated size of the French arsenal is 290 warheads.
Its nuclear weapons are carried on Rafale fighter aircraft based on land and aircraft carriers and four Triomphant-class nuclear submarines.
China, France, Pakistan, India, Israel and North Korea make up the world's other nuclear powers.
Science journal Nature Food released a paper in August examining the potential outcomes of a nuclear war between two countries.
The paper found that even a limited nuclear conflict in which two nations unleash weapons on each other could trigger global famine.
"A large per cent of the people will be starving," climate scientist Lili Xia from Rutgers University in New Jersey said. "It's really bad."
The paper used parallels such as forest fires to model the climatic effects of multiple nuclear explosions over cities.
Scientists analysed six war scenarios, each of which would pump different amounts of radioactive soot into the atmosphere.
Each scenario would cut surface temperatures anywhere between 1C to 16C, while the effects could linger on for more than a decade or so.
Taras Young, author of Nuclear War in the UK and Apocalypse Ready, told The Sun Online: "Nuclear war isn't survivable."
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He added: "We are far better prepared for cyberattacks than we are for nuclear war. We have the National Cybersecurity Centre.
"Education is key. The government needs to do more to educate people on the threats out there."
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