While ballistic missile developments in Iran, North Korea, India and China are capturing the headlines, strategic forces of the world’s two superpowers undergoing profound changes and modernization. This article highlights new developments in the The article appearing on this page is an excerpt of the full version, available exclusively to Defense-Update subscribers.(RVSN), a follow-on article will overview the evolution of the US missile defense capabilities and the status of their strategic forces, under the treaty. For consistency, this article will refer to all missiles by their NATO designations, and, where such designation is unavailable – by the Russian designation. [nonmember]
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According to the biennial report stating the aggregate numbers of “strategic offensive arms” under thetreaty, the US has the largest arsenal of nuclear warheads, with 1,688 deployed weapons, compared to the Russian arsenal of 1,400 deployed warheads. The US also has largest fleet of nuclear carrying platforms – 809, compared to 473 deployed by the Russians.
But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. While the US is maintaining and steadily reducing its inventory, to meet the treaty’s limits, the Russians strive to improve their arsenal with more capable weapons. According to open sources, the Russian Strategic Missile Forces currently operates at least 58 silo-based[ismember]New units are standing up with modern equipment, bringing the Russian strategic missile force toward the 500 threshold set by the treaty. The main improvement was the shift to solid rocket propulsion, introduced with the Satan ballistic missiles, 160 road-mobile Topol ( ) missile systems, 50 silo-based and 18 road-mobile Topol-M ( ) systems, and 18 Yars systems. At sea the Russians maintain eight Delta III/IV nuclear ballistic missile submarines remaining in service. ‘Sickel’. This propulsion method enables the use of land mobile launch systems, further improving the weapon’s survivability. Moreover, solid propelled missiles can be maintained in a higher state of readiness, as they do not require lengthy pre-launch refueling.[/ismember] [nonmember]
The dismantling work is already underway by the Russian company Rosobshemash, operating under a contract awarded by the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). Under this US$46 million contract announced in April 2012 the Russian company will “eliminate” 161 missile launch silos, launch control centers and training silos until 2017. These facilities remain in various operational states with the Return of the Russian Missile Trains“)[ismember]In addition to the fielding of modern missiles the RVSN will soon deploy an automated battle management system (ASBU), which will allow rapid retargeting of ICBMs. The system will rely on a ‘third-generation’ command-and-control system that will improve the launch and targeting procedures for the current ballistic missiles. The project, dubbed Vozzvaniye (Proclamation), will allow rapid retargeting of missiles in real-time, even after launch. The new system would be compatible with existing Topol-M and Yars ballistic missiles, as well as with the aforementioned future heavy liquid-fuel ICBM.[/ismember] ICBM regiments at based in Dombarovskiy and Uzhur; and the SS-19 ICBM regiments at based in Kozel’sk and Tatishchevo. [/ismember]Resulting from this plan, all liquid-propelled silo-based SS-19 Stiletto missiles will be decommissioned by 2017, leaving only 30 SS-18 (out of the current 58). (More on the new LP mega missiles: “
Besides the missile force, the Russian strategic triad comprises submarine-launched missiles and strategic bombers, delivering air-launched nuclear weapons. The principal nuclear armed weapon to equip those platforms is the Kh55 cruise missile, and its latest variant – Kh-102 that has entered service in the 2000s. The Tu-95MS can carry eight such missiles, and the Tu-160 carries 12 on two rotary launchers. These bombers will eventually be replaced by the future bomber known as ‘PAK-DA’, under development by the Tupolev design bureau, that has won the development tender offering a subsonic, stealthy “flying wing” design. (Read more in the article: “Russian Air Force to Field a Stealth Bomber By 2020“)
The third part of the triad is a fleet of ballistic missile submarine force, carrying the SS-N-23 Submarine Launched ballistic Missile. This weapon has entered service in 2007 and is currently operational with three delta III and four Delta IV submarines in service with the Russian Navy. An improved version of this weapon is the Russian SSBN Fleet to Receive Improved R-29 Missiles“)RMU2 , introducing improved countermeasures, improving its capability to penetrate enemy missile defenses. Development of the new missile was completed in 2012. The solid-propelled RSM-56 Bulava has yet to become operational, after repeated failures in flight testing. (Read more on these missiles: “
A comprehensive review of the RVSN is available on Ausairpower.net.
Comparison of Current Russian Strategic ICBM