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Topol-M: how Russia created an ultra-modern rocket in the 1990s

This post was published in TASS. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.

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MOSCOW, (BM) – In total, today in the Strategic Missile Forces there is a whole family of “Topol” at the combat post, created by the designers of the Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering under the guidance of Hero of Labor, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Yuri Solomonov, – 272 complexes.

Starting from the very first – the mobile monoblock RT-2PM “Topol”, or SS-25 Sickle (“Sickle”) according to the western classification, and ending with the latest multi-headed RS-24 “Yars”, or RS-12M2R.

Monoblock RT-2PM “Topol” in our system, as open sources suggest, 45. They are deployed in the Barnaul area. Monoblock RT-2PM2 “Topol-M”, or SS-27, universal – mobile and mine-based – 78 (18 and 60, respectively). They are on combat duty in the Ivanovo and Saratov regions.

And the newest strategic missiles of the “poplar family” RS-24 “Yars”, also of a mobile and mine-based method of basing, but with separate warheads of individual guidance (RGCH IN), are 149. They are on combat duty in the Strategic Missile Forces in Ivanovo, Novosibirsk , Nizhny Tagil, Irkutsk, Kaluga regions, as well as near Yoshkar-Ola and Altai. Moreover, the majority of mobile complexes among them is 135. And 14 RS-24 mine complexes are located in the forests under the legendary Kozelsk and Optina Desert.

Given that we have only 320 strategic carriers in the Strategic Rocket Forces, the 272 Poplars of various modifications can be safely considered the basis of these troops.

The “poplar family” accounts for the majority of nuclear warheads at the Strategic Missile Forces – 719. Together with the warheads of the R-36MUTTX / R-36M2 (SS-18) missiles of the Voivode, or Satan, as they are called in the West, and hypersonic planning blocks “Vanguard” UR-100NUTTH (SS-19) they represent a formidable force that can sober up any potential enemy.

The author of these lines was very lucky. Due to my journalistic profession, I managed to touch the fate of the first purely Russian strategic missile, which these days marks its first anniversary, and write about it. And our acquaintance began a few years before it was adopted by the Strategic Missile Forces.

Invitation to the holy of holies

At the end of 1994, I, then a war correspondent for the Izvestia newspaper, was invited to the Main Staff of the Strategic Missile Forces and was asked to write about further development, and more specifically, about the modernization of the Topol strategic missile system.

Now, they told me, it could be located not only on a moving dirt platform, but also in a mine. And it began to be called RT-2PM2 “Topol-M”, or SS-27 according to the western classification.

The day before, the first such missile was launched from the test site in Plesetsk, Arkhangelsk Region, to the Kura missile test site in Kamchatka, during factory tests, which came as a surprise to the whole world.

Including for the United States, although they were warned about such a launch, as it should be under START-1, in advance. But to promise is not to marry, they remembered the famous Russian proverb in Washington. And who could then believe in the White House and in the Pentagon that in a country in the deepest economic crisis, with a devastated defense, having lost all business ties with its partners in the republics of the former USSR, they could still make such a completely new missile.

True, the leadership of the country and the Commander-in-Chief of the Strategic Missile Forces categorically refused to pronounce these words “new strategic missile”. Under START-1, not one of the countries party to this agreement had the right to create a new missile – only to modernize the old ones. And even with certain limitations. In particular, the cast weight of the “modernized” rocket should not exceed the original weight by more than 21%.

And in order to emphasize the fact of the “modernization” of the RT-2PM, I was invited to the holy of holies – the main headquarters of the Strategic Missile Forces, provided the necessary information for the material, explained that in the future, the modernized Topol should replace all existing liquid strategic nuclear missiles with Separate warheads of individual guidance.

Including the mentioned “Voivode” (“Satan”), RS-22 “Molodets” (SS-24 Scalpel, it is solid fuel), RS-16 (SS-17 Spanker), RS-18 (SS-19 Stiletto), created in the seventies and eighties of the last century with the use of components of two hundred enterprises in Russia, Ukraine, Tajikistan and the Baltic states.

In the early decades of the 21st century, these missiles, they told me, will fully exhaust their technical resources and will have to give way to one universal, both for mine and mobile method of basing, monoblock solid-fuel rocket made exclusively at Russian enterprises and design bureaus.

And in order to make my material deep and convincing, they provided me with all the information that even then, in my opinion, constituted, if not state, then military secret.

Such truly sensational information I, the colonel, never had to hold in my hands. Needless to say, in a couple of days my article was ready, submitted to the then commander of the Strategic Missile Forces, Army General Igor Sergeyev. He really liked her. He signed it and allowed to publish.

A sufficiently abridged material, “And Still We Make Missiles,” appeared in the newspaper on January 20, 1995. The then ultra-liberal leadership of the publication considered it impossible to promote, as some of my superiors said, “the militarization of the country.”

And although there was a certain irony in the title, reminiscent of a famous line from Yuri Vizbor’s song “We also make rockets, cover the Yenisei, and even in the field of ballet, we are ahead of the rest”, the main thing was told about “Topol-M”.

The fact that it fully complies with all the restrictive parameters of START-1 and START-2. And the fact that it was assembled at the Votkinsk Machine-Building Plant, the output of which is controlled round-the-clock by the American Inspectorate, but nevertheless, the appearance of a modernized rocket came as a surprise to her.

According to a number of parameters, overseas experts noted that this “machine” is five to six years ahead of American rocket science.

Secrets from the newspaper

And it is “Topol-M”, the newspaper reported, a three-stage monoblock strategic solid-propellant solid-propellant missile mine-based. It is classified by the letter “A”, which means its constant presence in the transport and launch container.

This container provides a guarantee that the missile is ready for combat use without factory maintenance for at least 15 years. The previous one is only ten.

The length of the “Poplar-M” along with the warhead is 22.7 m (for the “Poplar” – 21.5 m). Case diameter – 1.95 m (U “Poplar – 1.80 m). Starting weight – 47.2 tons (” Poplar “- 45.1 tons). Throwing weight – 1200 kg (the prototype – 1 t). Range launch – more than 10,000 km. The exact power of the nuclear charge is not called, but by some indications it can be judged that it is included in the megaton class of nuclear warheads. At “Topol”, I recall, 550 kt.

The deputy director of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Engineering Lev Solomonov, one of the founders of Topol-M and the elder brother of Yuri Solomonov, the chief designer of MIT and Topol-M, told me then that the nuclear charge of their “product” is sufficiently efficient.

Not by excess power, like the warheads of some other missiles, which, specialists understand, will never be used, since they can unravel half-planets, which, in principle, is suicide. Namely, such as to make a potential aggressor think, but he should threaten Russia, or better not.

A nuclear charge was created for the RS-2PM2, like all the previous ones, at the VNIIEF design bureau in Arzamas-16. The chief designer is a student of academician Julius Khariton, academician George Dmitriev. And the combat unit – by the team of the Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering – the lead developer of the entire Topol-M complex under the leadership of academician Boris Lagutin and corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Yuri Solomonov.

Due to the new aerodynamic, ballistic and structural qualities, this unit has the ability to overcome any existing and promising missile defense, it retains the ability to remain on the calculated trajectory and reach the desired target under any conditions and hit the specified object with minimal deviation.

How high these fighting qualities can be judged, if only because the accuracy of the previous mobile soil complex “Topol”, or SS-25 Sickle, is less than that of “Topol-M”, twice, and the maximum deviation from the center of the target the perfect American strategic missile MX is 350 m, which is also worse than the same indicator RS-2PM2. In addition, the flight path of the warhead in the final section of the path is impossible to predict.

All test launches, which, incidentally, the Americans observed with their national means of control – only one of them was unsuccessful – demonstrated the unpredictability of the behavior of the combat unit at this distance, and, therefore, the highest degree of survivability.

It is also provided with the ability of the warhead to withstand the damaging factors of a nuclear explosion (shock wave, x-ray, light, gamma and neutron radiation).

The experts told me to knock off the Topol-M trajectory only if another missile hits its head. Like a bullet to a bullet. And such a result, in their opinion, is practically unattainable.

The readiness time of the complex began to be measured not in tens of minutes, as happened on liquid rockets, or in several minutes, as in the previous mobile complex, but in seconds.

If an American MX missile leaves the mine after receiving a start command after 30 seconds, then Topol-M is a few seconds earlier. The advantage in these moments, it would seem, is quite insignificant, but not only the highest degree of combat readiness, but also the very important technological and constructive findings and features of the new missile system, which laid the foundation for further modernization and improvement of the complex.

Many of these features of the new rocket are associated with its first stage engine. It was developed at the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau in Dnepropetrovsk under the leadership of General Designer Stanislav Konyukhov.

Then, when Ukraine left the cooperation, it was transferred to MIT. And already in Moscow it was finalized, “introduced” into the new complex. And the Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering, in addition to developing the ideology of the entire system, also has a priority in applying new composite materials and alloys to the complex, creating rotary nozzles and auxiliary engines, as experts say. Their development was led by Deputy General Designer Yuri Vinnichenko.

In the Lyubertsy NPO Soyuz, which was then headed by Academician Zinovy ​​Pak and then Yuri Milekhin, they found the original recipe and technology of solid propellant charges, which increased the rocket’s energy and power by 1.5 times.

And the metropolitan NGO for automation and instrumentation, led by academician Vladimir Lapygin, created for Topol-M a new flight control system and a fundamentally new aiming system (before it was made at the Kiev Arsenal plant).

The experimental and test base for the new “Topol” was the Plesetsk training ground. All 150 bench tests and inspections of equipment systems, which used to be carried out under strict control only at factories and design bureaus, this time the military and designers carried out directly in the rocket mine. This, as the Strategic Missile Forces Commander-in-Chief told me, reduced the time needed to create the complex by almost two years and saved the financial expenses of the Missile Forces in 1994 by 21 billion rubles. And the entire creation of the complex, from the sketch to the first pilot launch, cost the taxpayer 142.8 billion rubles (in 1994 prices).

Whether it’s a big expense or not, the rocket launchers I knew then refused to discuss. “Looking at what to compare,” they said. “If the repair of the White House or the building of the State Duma, then they are much lower. If the cost of all the armed forces is less than one percent. And whether Russia needs a new missile system today or tomorrow.” “Topol-M,” it’s not for us to decide. “

By the way, the first two 15Zh65 RT-2PM2 missiles were put into mines on pilot combat duty on December 25, 1995 in the village of Tatishchevo, Saratov Region, in the 60th missile division, where (smile of fate) the general designer once served after graduation from the institute complex Yuri Solomonov.

The author of these lines then managed to “distinguish himself” by indicating in a new newspaper publication the geographic coordinates of these mines, which was incorrect. By a decree of Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 13, 2000, Topol-M was adopted by the Strategic Rocket Forces.

Under the START III treaty, signed by Moscow and Washington in 2010, by April 2018, our countries could be armed with 1,550 nuclear warheads and 700 deployed nuclear weapons carriers – ground ballistic missiles, submarine ballistic missiles and heavy strategic bombers.

This means that the Strategic Missile Forces will be able to have no more than eleven divisions, which will be armed with no more than 350 strategic missile systems. Half of them, if funds permit, were stipulated in those years at the Main Headquarters of the Strategic Missile Forces, should be the divisions of the Topol-M mine and mobile complex.

Not “Topol” single

These predictions were not fully justified. Today (alleged information from open sources) of 532 deployed nuclear weapons carriers (in the Strategic Missile Forces, in the Navy and in aviation), Russia has 45 RT-2PM Topol in Vypolzovo and near Barnaul, as well as 60 Topol-M RT-2PM2 mine-based in Tatishchevo, Saratov region and 18 mobile complexes in Teikovo, Ivanovo region. The production of Topol-M, as well as Topol, was discontinued at the Votkinsk plant.

They were replaced by the RS-24 Yars, or RS-12M2R, which have increased accuracy and a divided head part of the individual guidance. Mine and mobile basing method. Able to overcome any missile defense system, what is current, what is promising. Also created at the Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering under the leadership of Yuri Solomonov.

True, in addition to the Topol family solid-fuel strategic missile systems, the Sarmat liquid mine rocket is now being created in the country, which will replace the Voyevoda RS-20 (SS-18 Satan), and several UR- missile systems remain on a combat duty 100NUTTH or RS-18 (SS-19 Stiletto).

At the end of last year, some of these missiles were equipped with the Vanguard combat planning hypersonic unit, during which the unit reached a speed of 27 Machs. And, of course, he has no obstacles in the form of any missile defense system and will not have them for many, many years, reliably providing, like the “poplar family”, the containment of any potential adversary.

Finishing the material, I cannot but say a few words about the youngest of the “poplar family” – about the solid-fuel “Yars” (mine and mobile way of basing). In the START III treaty, it is designated as RS-12M2R.

The decoding of its name is still a mystery. How remain a secret to the general public and many of its tactical and technical characteristics. It is only known that he has three solid fuel stages, which he carries to the target four warheads, as we have already mentioned, of individual guidance, with a capacity of 150 to 500 kt.

The maximum range of warheads is 12 thousand km, their circular probable deviation is 150 m, and the length of the missile along with the warhead is about 23 m.

This can be determined by eye, since the Yars mobile complexes have already repeatedly participated in the Victory Parade on Red Square. Including in the anniversary – June 24 this year, dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

One could notice that the RS-24 is moving on a platform with eight axles (the Topol, as we recall, has seven axes). Apparently, the trolley of the complex was created at the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant.

The open press reports that Yars does not need special engineering training for the area. The complex can go into a forest area and disguise itself under the crowns of trees, if the width and length of the launcher allow you to pass between the trees.

And it can be deployed into combat position in a matter of minutes. This complex is equipped with a flight task recalculation system, which allows it to fire a missile of a mobile complex from any point on the patrol route and not be tied to pre-designated launch positions.

“Yars”, as in its time and “Poplar”, continues to modernize. In the near future, as the commander of the Strategic Missile Forces, Colonel General Sergey Karakaev, said, troops will replenish several more of these modernized complexes. Until the end of 2021, three more regiments will be equipped with them.

Together with other missile systems of the Strategic Missile Forces, Navy and VKS, the heroic family Topoley will reliably protect Russia’s national interests.

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