Russia pushes ahead with RS-24 super-ICBM deployment

By MARTIN SIEFF, UPI Senior News Analyst

WASHINGTON, March 27 (UPI) -- Russia is continuing its massive strategic missile buildup despite its growing economic crisis that is already causing unrest across the far-flung Russian Federation.

The nation's strategic missile forces plan to deploy advanced RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missiles after the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty runs out, three-star Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, the forces' commander, announced March 17.


"After Dec. 5, 2009, when START-1 expires, Russia will put a regiment of RS-24 missiles into service," Solovtsov said, according to RIA Novosti.

Solovtsov also announced that the forces would carry out a full program of eight missile test launches, including space launches, in 2009, the news agency said. The general said the next test-missile firing would be conducted on April 10.

The formidable RS-24 ICBM has been nicknamed "Son of Satan" because it will replace the formidable old, and still operational, R-36M ICBMs -- NATO designation SS-18 Satan -- that were developed by the Soviet Union in the late 1970s.


Like the R-36M/SS-18, the RS-24 has multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicle warheads, which give it the capability to overwhelm the super-fast but complex and highly expensive Ground-based Mid-course Interceptors of the U.S. ballistic missile defense system that are deployed at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The GBIs are not intended to defend the United States against the Russian strategic missile forces but against more limited ballistic missile threats that could be posed by so-called "rogue states" such as North Korea or Iran.

Solovtsov said the RS-24 deployment would contribute to "strengthening the nuclear deterrence potential of the Russian nuclear triad," RIA Novosti said.

RIA Novosti said that the strategic missile forces currently deployed 538 ICBMs in all, including 306 Topol missiles -- NATO designation SS-25 Sickle -- and 56 SS-27 Topol-M missiles.

Russian navy determined to save Bulava SLBM

"If you don't succeed at first, try, try and try again." That old saying could be the motto for the Russian navy, which is pushing ahead with at least three more test launchings of its much-troubled Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile this year.

"We are planning three test launches of the Bulava missile from the Dmitry Donskoi submarine. If the tests are successful, they will continue on board the new Yury Dolgoruky nuclear-powered submarine," Vice Adm. Oleg Burtsev, deputy chief of the navy general staff, announced March 19, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.


The solid-fuel Bulava is an adaptation from the reliable and successful road- and rail-mobile, land-based Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile. But its designers at the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology had no previous experience in designing ICBMs to be launched by submarines while underwater, and they have had great trouble in ensuring that the missile retained its aerodynamic stability as it exited the ocean.

The Bulava has now racked up five test failures in its last 10 firings -- a failure rate of 50 percent. Some Russian analysts have called for the Bulava to be scrapped and the new generation of Borey-class Project 955 strategic nuclear submarines to be adapted to carry the far older, liquid-fuel but extremely reliable and longer-range Sineva SLBM instead. However, former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin remains committed to the Bulava.

RIA Novosti reported that the Russian navy is still determined to deploy the Bulava operationally on its submarines before the end of this year.

The three-stage Bulava-M -- NATO designation SS-NX-30 -- SLBM can carry up to 10 multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicle warheads and can hit targets at a distance of 8,000 kilometers, or 4,800 miles.

The first Borey-class Project 955 nuclear submarine, the Yury Dolgoruky, is scheduled to begin its sea trials this summer in the White Sea off Russia's Arctic northern coast.


"The tests of the Bulava missile will coincide with the sea trials of the Yury Dolgoruky submarine after the thawing of ice floes in the White Sea. As a rule, this is in the second half of June," Burtsev said, according to the report.

RIA Novosti said the Russian navy is currently building its second and third Borey-class Project 955 nuclear subs, the Alexander Nevsky and the Vladimir Monomakh, at the Sevmash shipyard in the Arkhangelsk region of Russia's far north. The Alexander Nevsky is due to be finished this year, and the Vladimir Monomakh in 2011. In all, Russia's naval shipyards have the ambitious task of completing eight of the new super subs by 2015.

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