Currently on duty in the Strategic Missile Forces are several hundred intercontinental ballistic missiles of various types. About half of these weapons are located in silo launchers, while other items are transported to the launch site using mobile ground-based missile systems. New missiles of the latest models are distributed approximately equally between the launchers of both classes. However, this does not answer the obvious question: which method of basing ICBMs is better?
An excursion into history
First, it is necessary to recall the history of domestic launchers for weapons of strategic missile forces. The first missiles, which appeared at the end of the forties, were proposed to be used with open installations placed in a suitable position without the construction of large special facilities. However, such an installation did not provide any protection for the rocket, and therefore, in the early fifties, the development of more advanced systems with better protection began.
Protective device for the launcher for the R-36M missile. Photo of the Strategic Missile Forces / pressa-rvsn.livejournal.com
By the mid-fifties, some of the new missiles had gone underground using silo launchers. The reinforced concrete structure was not subject to external influences, and in addition, it provided protection of the missile from missile and bomb attacks, including the use of certain types of nuclear weapons. However, the mines did not turn out to be an ideal solution to the problem, and therefore the designers began to create mobile ground-based missile systems.
The idea of the PGRK was first implemented in the field of operational-tactical missiles, but later found application in other classes. In the eighties, the first ICBMs appeared on such launchers. To date, mobile complexes have become the most important and integral element of the missile forces, successfully complementing stationary silos.
According to open sources, now the Russian Strategic Missile Forces are on duty about 300 intercontinental missiles of various types, both in launch silos and on mobile complexes. In this case, we are talking about missiles of five types, two of which are not rigidly bound to the class of the launcher. Three other models can be used only with PGRK or only with silo.
Rocket R-36M without a transport and launch container. Photo Rbase.new-factoria.ru
The oldest and smallest in the missile forces are ICBMs of the UR-100N UTTH type. Only 30 launchers of one of the Strategic Missile Forces formations have now been given for such products. Slightly newer R-36M / M2 missiles are available in the amount of 46 units, and all of them are located only in silo launchers. Around 35 RT-2PM Topol missiles, which are used with mobile launchers, are on duty. In recent decades, nearly 80 RT-2PM2 Topol-M missiles and about 110 RS-24 Yars missiles have been put on duty. It is the Topol-M and Yars missiles that can operate both with mines and with self-propelled vehicles.
The available data makes it possible to determine how many missiles are in the silos and how many are transported by special vehicles. In silos are on duty 30 missiles UR-100N UTTH, 46 R-36M, 60 RT-2PM2 and 20 RS-24 - a total of 156 units. The mobile complexes carry 35 RT-2PM missiles, 18 Topol-M missiles and 90 Yarsov missiles - a total of 143 products. Thus, the missiles are distributed almost equally between the silo and the PGRK, with a slight preponderance in favor of the former. The planned replacement of old missiles with new ones may lead to some change in this ratio, but without any particular advantage for one or another class of installations.
Mines: pros and cons
The most widespread type of launchers in the Russian Strategic Missile Forces - both active and unused on duty - are mine launchers. With them, first of all, missiles of old types are used, which cannot be operated at PGRK. However, new samples are created taking into account the available material and can also be used at silos.
Internal equipment of silo for R-36M. Photo Rbase.new-factoria.ru
The advantages of a silo launcher are obvious. The underground structure, made of high strength reinforced concrete, provides a high level of protection for the missile and related equipment. For the guaranteed destruction of the missile and the calculation of such an installation - depending on the design and characteristics of the latter - a high-power nuclear charge and a direct hit into the area of the mine are required. In other situations, the missile system can remain operational and take part in a retaliatory strike.
An indirect advantage of silos are less severe restrictions on the size and weight of the rocket. This makes it possible to equip the missile with larger and heavier, as well as more powerful combat equipment. It is well known that domestic missiles UR-100N UTTH and R-36M are equipped with a multiple warhead with several warheads, while Topol and Topol-M carry one warhead each. It also becomes possible to give the rocket a larger supply of fuel and thereby improve its flight data.
It should be noted that the main advantage of the launch shaft is associated with its main disadvantage. The launch complex is located in one place, and the potential enemy knows its coordinates in advance. As a result, it can deliver the first strike against silos with more powerful and long-range missiles. To solve this problem, it is necessary to strengthen the protection of the mine in one way or another.
R-36M at the time of launch. Photo Rbase.new-factoria.ru
The easiest way to improve protection is to use more powerful building structures, which, however, negatively affects the complexity and cost of construction. An alternative solution is active protection complexes. Back in the eighties, our country began to develop special anti-missile systems designed to timely intercept enemy warheads. KAZ was supposed to shoot down threatening objects and thereby ensure a safe launch from silos. In the late nineties, the domestic project of the Mozyr complex was stopped, but a few years ago, new research began in this area.
Pros and cons of mobility
Almost half of Russian ICBMs are now operated on mobile ground-based missile systems. Obviously, such a technique, like stationary mines, has both pros and cons. At the same time, the combination of positive and negative features is such that the command of the Strategic Missile Forces considered it necessary to simultaneously operate the materiel of two types.
Mine head and missile UR-100N UTTH. Photo Rbase.new-factoria.ru
The main advantage of the PGRK is its mobility. Self-propelled launcher, control and support vehicles do not remain in place during combat duty. They constantly move between the base, equipped positions and defenses. This, at a minimum, makes it difficult to determine the current location of the complex and, therefore, prevents the enemy from organizing the first disarming strike. Naturally, the prepared positions may be known to the enemy in advance, but before the attack he will have to find out which of them have real targets.
However, mobility leads to certain problems, for getting rid of which certain measures are required. PGRK on duty can be ambushed by saboteurs. When attacking the complex, the enemy uses small arms or explosive devices. However, in this case, several different vehicles for different purposes are included in the escort of the complex on duty. First of all, the launchers are accompanied by armored personnel carriers and security guards. If necessary, they must accept the battle and repulse the attack.
Especially for the Strategic Missile Forces, the so-called. a remote demining vehicle and an anti-sabotage combat vehicle. This technique is capable of conducting reconnaissance, timely finding an enemy or explosive devices, and also destroying detected threats. In addition, the so-called. engineering support and camouflage vehicle. This sample is capable of leaving false traces of a convoy with a PGRK, misleading enemy reconnaissance.
Loading the RT-2PM2 Topol-M rocket into the silo. Photo of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
A significant drawback of the PGRK is its capacity limitations, which lead to a reduction in combat performance. The modern Topol and Topol-M missiles, due to the characteristics of the chassis, have a starting weight of less than 50 tons. It is for this reason that they could not obtain a MIRV and carry one charge each. However, in the new project "Yars" this problem is solved, and the rocket is equipped with several warheads.
At present, the Russian defense industry is releasing new missiles of the RS-24 type and transferring them to the Strategic Missile Forces to be put on duty or sent to arsenals. Depending on the current needs of the troops, the Yars missile can be loaded into a silo or installed on a PGRK. Like the older Topol-M missile, the new RS-24 is universal based. This fact may hint at the path of further development of the Strategic Missile Forces and their weapons.
PGRK "Topol" on the march. Photo of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
Apparently, relatively light ICBMs of existing and promising types in the foreseeable future will be used together with PGRK and silo. Due to this, it will be possible to realize all the main advantages of launchers of two types, while reducing the negative impact of existing shortcomings. In other words, some missiles will be able to be protected by reinforced concrete structures, but will be at risk of a first strike, while others will escape observation, although they will require the assistance of a number of special machines.
The situation is different in the field of heavy ICBMs. In the foreseeable future, the Strategic Missile Forces plans to complete the operation of the old missiles UR-100N UTTH and R-36M, which, for obvious reasons, can only work with launch silos. The outdated missiles will be replaced by a new product RS-28 "Sarmat", which also belongs to the heavy class. Before its adoption, a certain number of existing silos will have to undergo repair and modernization. Thus, the rocket forces will receive new weapons, but at the same time they will not have to spend time and money building the required structures from scratch.
Mobile soil complex and escort armored personnel carriers. Photo of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
In all likelihood, in the medium term, the basis of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces' weapons will be the RS-24 Yars and RS-28 Sarmat missile systems. In this case, products of the Topol family will occupy the same position as the R-36M or UR-100N UTTH at the present time. They will still remain in service, but their number and role should be gradually reduced.
How modern and promising missiles in the future will be distributed between PGRK and silos is unknown. It is obvious that the heavy "Sarmatians" can only be on duty in the mines. Some of the lighter Yars will remain in silos, while others will continue to be used together with self-propelled launchers. It is quite possible that the ratio of the number of mines and mobile complexes will remain at the current level, although changes are possible.
Comparing different ways of basing and operating ICBMs, it is difficult not to ask the expected question: which one is better? But in this formulation, this question is not entirely correct. As in the case with other weapons and military equipment, the correct question sounds differently: which method is better for the assigned tasks? The answer is obvious. Both the silo launcher and the mobile soil complex - at least at the concept level - meet the requirements imposed on them and correspond to the tasks being performed.
Launch of "Topol" from a mobile launcher. Photo of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation
Moreover, the joint operation of launchers of the two classes provides certain advantages. Due to it, in practice, it is possible to realize the advantages of both systems, and also partially get rid of their characteristic disadvantages. Also, one should not forget about the ongoing renewal of the materiel of the missile forces. It is planned to modernize some of the existing silos, as well as developing new versions of the PGRK. It is to be expected that new and improved complexes will compare favorably with their predecessors.
In the context of different ways of basing ICBMs, the question "which is better?" doesn't make much sense, but you can find an acceptable answer for it. Apparently, it is worth answering "both". Over the long years of operation, mine launchers and mobile soil complexes have demonstrated their capabilities and have proven themselves well. In addition, to date, a successful missile force structure has been formed, based on both types of launchers. Probably, such a structure will be able to change significantly only in the event of the appearance of fundamentally new land-based launchers.