At rocket pace: what are the prospects for Russian strategic forces?

“At rocket pace: what are the prospects for Russian strategic forces” is originaly published in the Russian webpage Izvestia. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.


MOSCOW, (BM) – In the coming years, Russian strategic nuclear forces will reach a fundamentally new level. Already in 2021, they will be equipped with only the most modern technology. The Russian troops will receive hypersonic and intercontinental missile complexes, laser systems, and other developments. In 2020, the Strategic Missile Forces (Strategic Missile Forces) implemented all the plans and completed all the launches. Military expert Dmitry Kornev understood how the land component of the Russian nuclear triad updates and what adjustments have been made to the troops’ development by the coronavirus.

From “Topol” to “Yars”

The Strategic Missile Forces commander, Sergei Karakaev, announced in early December that the troops had already received more than 150 newest Yars missile systems. This information means that in 2021 Moscow will complete the program of re-equipping the Strategic Missile Forces with the latest technology. In some regiments of the Tver missile formation, the intercontinental RS-12M “Topol” in a mobile version is still alert. They are planning to be replaced with the most modern Yars. Last year, these complexes entered the Barnaul missile unit (mobile version) and Kozelsk, where they are based in silo launchers.

Intercontinental ballistic “Yars” differ from the first modifications. These missiles and launchers can receive commands from the most advanced control systems. Directly on patrol routes, they can receive an order for combat use, which significantly reduces the time for preparing and delivering a retaliatory nuclear strike. Also, it is believed that now the Yars are in service with two options of equipment – with light warheads, partially unified with the Bulava and Liner sea ballistic missiles, and the more powerful Yars-S with medium-power warheads. The Russian forces can use such ammunition against the most essential and well-defended targets such as underground command posts and positions of potential enemy strategic missile systems.

In 2019, Russia completed the first stage of flight design tests of the new Yars-M modification, the features described in one of the interviews by its creator, chief designer of the Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering (MIT), Yuri Solomonov. Separating warheads of the new version of Yars will receive individual disengagement propulsion systems, which will increase the missile defense potential of the product and significantly expand the coverage area of ​​the target geography with one launch. In the future, modern “Yars” can be armed with maneuvering hypersonic warheads, the work on which has been going on at MIT for several years. But this will already be the modernization of the Topol-M systems and the first Yarsov deployed in the early 2010s. Most likely, these are plans for the coming decade, not for 2021-2022.

In 2012, Russia completed Topol-M mobile and silo ICBMs in Teikovo and Tatishchevo missile formations. Since then, the composition of the grouping of these complexes has not changed. In the next few years, the modern “Yars” forerunner will remain an utterly modern missile with a powerful megaton-class warhead with a complicated means of overcoming antimissile defense. In the fall of 2019, a successful combat training launch of the Topol-M ICBM was carried out from the Plesetsk test site against the Kura test site’s target in Kamchatka.

Hypersound and heavy hit

In December 2020, Moscow put on the third and fourth launchers with 15A35-71 missiles of the Avangard strategic missile complex with hypersonic warheads alert. Avangard is a liquid propellant silo ballistic missile equipped with one hypersonic maneuvering warhead. Each such warhead is a reasonably large aircraft with a megaton-class thermonuclear charge. And a middle-class missile, which includes the 15A35 ICBM (UR-100NUTTH), can carry only one such device. More powerful heavy “Sarmatians,” which in the coming years will be adopted by the Strategic Missile Forces, will be able to carry several such warheads.

In 2021, the first regiment of the missile division in the Orenburg region will be equipped with Avangard missiles. In total, by 2025, it is planned to adopt two units of six missiles each.

R-36M2 heavy liquid-propellant missiles, each carrying ten warheads, continue to remain in service with the Strategic Missile Forces. In total, the troops include 46 Voevoda missiles, and, starting from 2022-2023, Russia will replace them right in the mines with the newest and equally heavy Sarmatians.

Russia recently planned to start placing the 15A28 “Sarmat” ICBMs in the division in Uzhur in 2022. But such a schedule turned out to be too optimistic. Flight tests of the new rocket will probably take place in 2021–2022, and only from 2023, we can talk about the start of deliveries of the first production samples to the Strategic Missile Forces.

Missile losses

The promising mobile ground missile system “Rubezh” and the rail-based complex “Barguzin,” apparently, can be forgotten for a while, since Russia stopped their work on their creation several years ago. One of the reasons was the reduction and optimization of the budget for new missile programs. Suppose this is so, then in the future, after reducing the financial burden on re-equipping the Strategic Missile Forces with new types of equipment. In that case, these forces can resume the development of these promising complexes.

In 2020, the Russian army completed the deployment of functional disruptions to optical reconnaissance systems for satellites and Peresvet reconnaissance drones in places of the experimental process of laser combat systems. They are deploying in five divisions of the Strategic Missile Forces. Their main task is to ensure mobile missile systems’ most covert deployment in patrol areas during a threatened period. “Peresvet” cannot shoot down satellites or warheads with lasers. Still, they can disrupt optical surveillance systems, which transmit a picture of the area to a potential enemy in real-time. All this ensures reliable camouflage of any actions of ground forces.

Thus, in the next two or three years in the Strategic Missile Forces, there may not be any Soviet-designed missile systems at all, and by 2025, the technical re-equipment to new complexes will be completed. And although some programs are shifting in time, the dynamics are everywhere positive, and even the coronavirus pandemic did not have a noticeable effect on these changes. The Strategic Missile Forces went through the crisis without losses.


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