Nuclear triad. Poplar and Minuteman - yesterday or today?

Nuclear triad. Poplar and Minuteman - yesterday or today?
Nuclear triad. Poplar and Minuteman - yesterday or today?

To begin with, as a preface. The nuclear weapons of every country that have them is a very complex component of state security. It is clear that this is a single-use weapon, since the first use automatically becomes the last one, condemning the whole world.

In this cycle, we will try to talk and compare the nuclear security components of Russia and the United States. Perhaps the weapons of China, Great Britain and other countries of the "nuclear club" would also look appropriate here, but it will be quite beautiful with two main contenders for the main roles in the nuclear Apocalypse.

And we'll start with the ground component.


Ground-based nuclear weapons systems are divided into two classes: mine and mobile. The Americans have no mobile systems, all 400 ground-based ICBMs are mine LGM-30G Minuteman III.


The LGM-30G "Minuteman III" is a rather old rocket from the seventies of the last century. Yes, it is constantly being modernized, which allows the missile to be an effective component of the nuclear triad, but the US military does not consider it necessary to develop this topic, the topic of silo-based ICBMs. And there are certain reasons for this.

I will allow myself a small digression.

Silo-based ICBMs are of course the last century. In fact, they are not very useful. Yes, when the very principle of operating ICBMs was being developed, there were not many things: satellite orbital groupings in the first place and decent submarines in the second. Over-the-horizon radars, of course, are a topic, they could detect launches, but satellites are still much more effective.

In addition, over the past time, the opponents have not only thoroughly studied the location of the launch shafts, but with their eyes closed, they will hit the mines. Natural and logical. So today it is simply not worth considering a mine-based launcher as a serious weapon. And here is the reason.

The standard distance along the Earth's surface that ICBMs cover is about 10,000 km. This is enough for both us and the Americans to reach targets on enemy territory. In this case, the flight time is about 30 minutes.

Since the missiles fly along a ballistic trajectory, it is clear that even a slight decrease in flight range leads to a sharp decrease in flight time. And the time factor can be significant, if not critical, in a situation where the attacker delivers, for example, a preemptive strike against the enemy's control centers and nuclear forces.

By this I mean that the closer an ICBM or CD with a nuclear warhead is to the enemy's territory, the less time the enemy will have to develop countermeasures.

Retaliation is not reaction. Countermeasures are attempts to prevent missiles from exploding where intended. And in this light, mine PUs do not look serious. The maximum, in what their "usefulness" is to give the enemy time to mobilize and prepare for a response. Half an hour is an eternity by the standards of the Apocalypse.

Probably, realizing the obsolescence of this weapon, the United States stopped work on the creation of mine-based ICBMs, throwing all its forces into maintaining the Minutemans in working order and at the proper level in terms of modernization.

In Russia, the approach is somewhat different. Work on the creation of a new missile weapon is going on, and is going in two directions, both mine and mobile deployment. Everything is clear with mines, but mobile complexes can have their say, being not as vulnerable as missiles in mines. Again, in well-known mines. The mobile complex, which managed to move away from the calculated basing site, where, no doubt, the strike will be struck, is a guaranteed launch towards the enemy. And MAZ-MZKT-79221 is capable of delivering up to 40 km / h. There are options.

Therefore, Topol and Yarsy, which exist in a mobile version, are, of course, preferable to missiles in mines.


It is possible to talk about the performance characteristics of missiles on both sides, but without fanaticism. About "Minuteman-3" is known enough, and all the innovations that have been made recently, the Americans keep secret. Roughly the same thing is with our missiles.

Topol-M, which was replaced by Yars, is the fruit of the creativity of the Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering, which developed the RT-2PM Topol ICBM back in the 70s of the last century. These two missiles are modifications of the Soviet ICBM with all the ensuing consequences, that is, they are quite lethal technology. Moreover, based on the quality of Soviet developments, in the 2000s, an openly propaganda myth was born that there is no effective anti-missile defense against Topol.

In fact, the differences between Topol-M and Yars are not that big. Home - "Yars" carries several warheads, and "Topol" one-piece. And one more difference, no less significant - the Ukrainian design bureau Yuzhnoye was directly involved in the creation of Topol-M. It is clear that today any interaction with the Ukrainians in the military field is unrealistic, so a completely Russian Yars looks preferable. And the fact that the aiming system was invented within the walls of the Kiev Avangard Design Bureau and was assembled at the plant of the same name …

In general, Yars is a Russian Topol carrying several warheads. That's the whole difference. How much better is the Minuteman?

In general, there is almost no information about Yars. But since this is a modification of Topol-M, which is stated in open sources, “compared to Topol-M, TPK Yarsa has a higher level of protection against small arms damage. The warranty period for the operation of the complex was increased by one and a half times, and the introduction of technical solutions and measures for fire protection of equipment increased nuclear safety,”that can be taken as the starting point of the Topol-M performance characteristics.


Length 22.5 m, maximum diameter 1.9 m, takeoff weight 47 tons. It has 3 stages with solid-propellant engines and a warhead weighing 1.2 tons, which is equipped with a 0.55 Mt warhead. In addition to the warhead, the payload includes several dozen false targets, including those of a radio-electronic nature.

You can also find such an interesting detail as KVO. Circular probabilistic deviation. This figure gives us the approximate radius of the circle in which the warhead will hit with a probability of at least 50%.

This is a very important indicator when striking such complex targets as underground command posts and missile silos. KVO for "Topol-M" is 200-350 m. The figure is somewhat vague, but there is nothing to be done about it.

The maximum range for the missile is declared at 11,000 km, which is more than enough to reach any target in the United States in about 27 minutes. This is if the warhead is separated at an altitude of about 300 km and rises to a maximum height of 550 km.

However, if we take into account the repeated statements of the military that the Topol-M has a low / flat trajectory, and the separation of the warhead occurs at an altitude of only 200 km with an initial pitch of 5 degrees, then the maximum climb height will be 350 km. In this case, the range will be "only" 8 800 km and this distance will be covered in 21 minutes.

The power of the warhead, consisting of 4 parts, 100 kt each, turns out to be 400 kt.

More than decent performance. The range is sufficient to reach any point in the United States when launched from central Russia. The time is reduced by as much as 9 minutes. There is something to think about. Plus additional complications for the missile defense, which needs to carry out a complete selection of targets during this shortened approach time. But in general, such a reduction in flight time is more important precisely with a preemptive strike than with a retaliatory one.

What about Minuteman 3?


Length 18.2 m, maximum diameter 1.67 m, takeoff weight 36 tons. It has 3 stages with solid propellant engines and a warhead of 1, 15 tons. The latest modification of the Minuteman, the LGM-30G, has a W87 warhead with a yield of 300 (according to other sources, 475) kilotons.

The Minuteman-3's range is about 13,000 km with an arrival time of 36 minutes. True, these data were for a variant with a MIRV of three W78 warheads. Monoblock W87 is much lighter, so the data may be different. There is indirect evidence that the "Minuteman-3" with a combat monoblock has a range of 15,000 km. This is frankly redundant.

KVO "Minutema" is estimated at 150-200 meters.

What else can you squeeze out of the numbers? The power of the engines is approximately the same, the starting thrust of the first stage is estimated at 91-92 tons. Based on the fact that the "Minuteman" is considerably lighter, it can be assumed that it starts a little faster and its blocks can pick up great speed. According to the American rocket, there is data on the maximum speed of the blocks at 24,000 km / h, it can be assumed that this figure is lower for Yars.

It is clear here that a Russian rocket's body simply has to be stronger precisely because of its mobility. The body of the rocket when moving (especially over rough terrain) will have a fair amount of physical impact, which is not typical for a silo-based rocket. A mine rocket is transported once in a lifetime. Before the mine. And the mobile has to move systematically, so everything is clear here.

Otherwise, the missiles are actually the same. Yes, Yars seems to have inherited from Topol the ability to maneuver a monoblock using mini-engines. It is difficult to assert something, since some of the sources (more serious) say that there is a "possibility" of equipping the blocks with such engines, some of the sources are frankly joyfully hysterical about the fact that the "Topol" / "Yarsa" warhead is nothing more than a hypersonic glider capable of maneuvering on the ballistic leg of the trajectory.

There is no serious confirmation. But the question immediately arises: why? Why does the warhead need this frankly stupid maneuvering?

If you look at it intelligently, any maneuver of the warhead takes it out of the protection of a cloud of decoys, sources of radio interference, metal debris in which it moves, maddening enemy ballistic computers, which burn processors in an attempt to determine exactly what is flying where.

It turns out that the warhead will remain "naked", which will immediately remove the selection task for the missile defense system. After the first maneuver, the monoblock will be visible on radars, but how much fuel it will have enough to rush from side to side at great speed is a question. Indeed, in addition to yawing along the course, you also need to aim at the target.

If you look at the characteristics that are known, then "Minuteman-3", which as a model has almost half a century, is no worse than its Russian counterpart. And in some cases it even surpasses.

However, the issue of superiority in the same range should be treated without fanaticism. Why do you need a range of 15,000 km if all targets are at a distance of 8-10,000 km? The number of warheads is almost parity. A monoblock system has been developed in accordance with the START-3 treaty, but both the United States and Russia have MIRVed warheads.

The American W78, in which 3 charges of 340 kt each, is clearly more powerful than the Russian one, which has 4 charges of 100 kt each.

True, there is a 800 kt monoblock from Topol-M, but this is a very specific charge.

On the side of the Americans, there is such a delicate thing as targeting accuracy. If we are talking about modern guidance methods, then the more accurate the GPS system is than GLONASS, so it is easier for the Americans with guidance. If we talk about the use of an inertial guidance system, then it is very difficult to judge. But I think that our system is at least as good as the American one.

Plus, the Americans actually have more deployed missiles, but this is also not critical.

Russian missiles have an advantage in overcoming missile defenses. This is affected by a more modern development, taking into account modern realities. And the mobility of ground-based complexes, which increases the survival rate.

In general, a certain parity is outlined. If you do not take into account the fact that Russian missiles were adopted relatively recently (Topol-M in 1997, Yars in 2010), and Minuteman almost 50 years ago.

It turns out that the Americans, through a series of modernizations, were able to keep their missile at a very competitive level.

And, based on all that has been said, it is very difficult to give the palm to a Russian or American rocket.

However, speaking of ground-based ICBM systems, it is worth noting that the Russian approach based on the use of mobile systems is generally more viable. There is a chance that even in the event of a first strike, some of the complexes on alert at a distance from their permanent deployment sites will be able to retaliate.

Mine-based missiles should gradually give way to more modern missile systems, primarily because of their vulnerability.

The times when silos (silo launchers) guaranteed the safety of missiles and the possibility of launching ended with the advent of weapons capable of disabling the silos with a high probability. Accordingly, it makes no sense today, in the age of high-precision weapons, to pay much attention to frankly outdated weapons.

Indeed, even in the event of a launch, ICBMs launched from another continent are quite calmly tracked by modern means. And anti-missile systems and countermeasures (like the same NORAD) may well cope with the task of destroying the warheads of ICBMs.

In general, land-based ICBMs can be safely called the most obsolete components of the nuclear triad of any country. Precisely because it is easiest to track and not very difficult to neutralize.

Accordingly, it is not so important how much "Minuteman-3" is better or worse than "Yars", in any case, these are representatives of a rapidly aging class of strategic weapons. Therefore, the Americans abandoned the idea of developing new land-based missiles, paying attention to other methods of delivering nuclear warheads to enemy territory. But we'll talk about this next time. About air carriers of nuclear weapons.

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