Artillery trail in the history of RT-15
But in April 1961, no one had thought about such a development of events - just like the fact that the chairman of the Council of Chief Designers for the RT-2 rocket project, Academician Sergei Korolev, had only five years to live, and he would not even see how the first a solid-propellant missile will be adopted by the Strategic Missile Forces. All project participants worked enthusiastically and hoped, if not to make an incredible breakthrough, then at least to create a completely new model of rocket weapons.
Scale drawing of the prototype of the SPM complex 15P696. Photo from the site
When asked why TsKB-7 was commissioned to develop a mobile combat missile system with the RT-15 missile, there is a fairly accurate answer. Since it was this design bureau that was responsible for the development of the engines of the second and third stages of the RT-2 rocket, the government decided that this was a sufficient reason to transfer to him the work on creating a modification of the rocket for a ground mobile complex. Indeed, in fact, the RT-15 was the same RT-2, only without the lower, first stage. Thus, a rocket with a total length of 11, 93 m and a diameter of 1 m (second stage) to 1.49 m (first stage) should have been obtained. At the same time, she had to carry a warhead weighing half a ton and a power of 1 megaton.
It was decided to entrust the development of the second and third stages RT-2 engines to the Leningrad TsKB-7, which had not previously dealt with this topic, on the grounds that the Arsenal plant, which included the design bureau, was directly connected with Vasily Grabin's TsAKB. Moreover, Pyotr Tyurin, who was appointed chief of TsKB-7 and chief designer of Arsenal in 1953, came from the Grabinsk design bureau. He came there right before the start of the war, in June 1941, and worked until February 1953, and for the last nine years he was the representative of the chief designer at the Leningrad enterprise. Therefore, when in 1959, with the start of work on solid-propellant missiles, TsAKB, which had become TsNII-58 by that time, was liquidated by attaching Sergei Korolev to OKB-1, designer Tyurin joined the work on a new topic.
Since the development of the control system of the new missile was carried out by the same design bureaus that provided it and the "head" rocket of the RT-2 project, the duties of TsKB-7 were actually only the finalization of the two-stage version of the rocket to an independent flight and the coordination of the efforts of the subcontractors responsible for the design of the remaining components of the mobile combat missile system. And with these tasks, Pyotr Tyurin, according to the recollections of people who knew him well, coped perfectly well.
Suitcase on a tank run
According to the initial project, a mobile combat missile system with a RT-15 missile was supposed to be able to move into an arbitrary area, take a position, place a missile delivered in a container on a launch pad and fire a salvo. Thus, it was necessary to develop a mobile platform for the container, and the container itself, and the launcher, and the complex maintenance machines.
The first step was to design a mobile launcher with a container. As a chassis, they chose an already worked out version - the base of the T-10 heavy tank. By that time, this chassis was already used in the self-propelled 420-mm mortar 2B1 "Oka", in the experimental missile tank "object 282", in the experimental self-propelled guns "object 268" and some other experimental military and civilian vehicles (not to mention the very heavy tank T-10, mass-produced from 1954 to 1966). The choice was determined by the fact that the future mobile launcher was supposed to provide the missile system with sufficient cross-country ability so as not to make it dependent on constantly operating roads, and therefore, predictable and easily calculable. On the other hand, the chassis had to be heavy enough to carry a load of 32 tons - that is how much the container with the rocket placed in it weighed.
Model of the first prototype SPU for the RT-15 rocket, kept in the museum of the Kirov plant. Photo from the site
TsKB-34, also known as the Design Bureau of Special Mechanical Engineering, was engaged in the creation of a mobile launcher - another fragment of the former artillery empire of Vasily Grabin. Initially, it was just a Leningrad branch of the TsAKB, then it became the Naval Artillery TsKB, then TsKB-34, and since 1966 it was called the KB of Mechanization Means. With the development of the missile industry, this design bureau was re-profiled and reoriented to the development of technological equipment and launchers for all types of missile systems. So the task that Petr Tyurin set before his former colleagues at TsAKB was not new to them.
In the same way, the task of adapting the chassis of the T-10 heavy tank for a mobile transport and launcher was not a new thing for the designers of the KB-3 of the Kirov plant. Therefore, it took a little time to prepare the project: in 1961, immediately after the task was set for TsKB-7, TsKB-34 and KB-3 began to prepare a draft design, and already in 1965 the Kirovsky plant produced the first prototype of the installation - “object 815 joint venture.1". A year later, the second prototype was ready - "object 815 sp.2", which practically did not differ from the first. Both the one and the other had a transport container for a rocket of a characteristic shape: with a trapezoidal front part and opening lengthwise to the left side, like a suitcase lid.
After the transport container was raised to a vertical position, it was opened and the RT-15 rocket, using a hydraulic system installed at the stern of a self-propelled launcher, took a position on the launch pad (it was located behind the stern of the chassis and lowered with the rocket). Then the container was lowered into place and closed, and the rocket that remained standing underwent prelaunch preparation. The RT-15 was launched from a separate control vehicle, since the launch of the rocket posed a danger to personnel, even in the closed cabin of the transport and launcher.
The missile container is lifted from the self-propelled launcher to the pre-launch position. Photo from the site
According to the preliminary plan, tests of the complex with the participation of the transport launcher and the RT-15 rocket were supposed to begin in the fall of 1963, but did not begin. The problem turned out to be in the "lead" rocket RT-2, the tests of which did not go well, and, accordingly, because of them, the tests of the "reduced" version of the rocket, the RT-15, were suspended. In the meantime, the designers were finalizing the "two" solid-propellant engines, the military, who appreciated the convenience of a single transport and launch container used for the UR-100 rocket launched for testing, decided to adapt it to the "tag". New tactical and technical requirements of the customer, providing for the launch of the rocket directly from the transport and launch container mounted on a mobile chassis, appeared in August 1965. And the designers had to significantly alter the project of the self-propelled launch platform.
Since it was impossible to simply take and adapt the first two prototypes for the new TPK, they were left alone and even rolled across Red Square during the November 1965 and 1966 parades. Meanwhile, specialists from the SKTB in Khotkovo near Moscow (the current Central Research Institute of Special Engineering), which specialized in polymer and composite materials for the rocket and space industry, created a new transport and launch container in which the RT-15 rocket was placed right at the plant. The chassis remained the same, but modified, since the mechanisms for lifting and installing the TPK and preparing for launch also had to be redone.
Schematic diagram of the placement of the RT-15 rocket in a new type of transport and launch container. Photo from the site
The new version of the transport and launcher began to be assembled at the same Kirov plant as the first prototypes. By this time - in the autumn of 1966 - it was possible to resolve the main problems associated with the reliability and stability of the engines of all three stages of the R-2 rocket, and, therefore, its reduced version of the RT-15. And in November 1966, tests of the "tag" began at the Kapustin Yar test site. It is noteworthy that two landfill sites were allocated for their conduct at once - the 105th and 84th. On the first of them, on which the RT-2 missiles were also tested, all tests and prelaunch checks of the rocket were carried out in the vertical position of the transport and launch container, after which it was lowered, and the transport and launcher in the stowed position moved to another site, from where rocket launches. At the same time, at the first stages, the personnel participating in the launches took refuge in the underground command post, which was part of the 84th site - and the command equipment of the complex was also located there.
Self-propelled launcher with RT-15 rocket at site No. 84 of Kapustin Yar training ground. Photo from the site
Until the end of 1966, three RT-15 launches were carried out, over the next year - three more, working out the technology for preparing and implementing missile launches. The main launches at the Kapustin Yar range were carried out by the 15P645 mobile combat missile system in 1968 - eight times. And then launches began as part of three 15U59 launchers, 15N809 combat control vehicle, 15V51 position preparation machine, a communications center consisting of 3 vehicles, two diesel power plants and transport-loading and docking machines 15T79, 15T81, 15T84, 15T21P. Moreover, these were both single launches and launches with the development of the duty mode of the complex in full force: during the tests, two two-rocket salvoes were fired.
Launch of the RT-15 rocket from a self-propelled launcher at site No. 84 of the Kapustin Yar training ground. Photo from the site
A little earlier than the flight design tests of the RT-15 rocket began, the production of which was launched at the same Leningrad Arsenal plant, in whose design bureau it was developed, military tests of the missile complex began in its original form - that is, without transport and launch containers. They passed by order of the commander-in-chief of the Strategic Missile Forces on the basis of two units - the 638th missile regiment of the 31st missile division, stationed near the town of Slonim in the Grodno region of Belarus, and the 323rd missile regiment of the 24th missile division, located near the town of Gusev, Kaliningrad region. Neither combat nor training launches were carried out during these tests, and according to some reports, the personnel involved in these activities did not even deal with training missiles, but with mass-dimensional mock-ups. Nevertheless, these tests made it possible to work out the issues of the combat use of self-propelled launchers, to determine the time standards for occupying and leaving positions, the volume and procedure for maintenance of launchers, and to develop an approximate staffing of the missile complex.
And in December of the same 1966, when flight tests of the RT-15 rocket had already begun at the Kapustin Yar test site, two missile divisions were formed as part of the Strategic Missile Forces, taking into account the achievements of the autumn military tests as part of the 50th Missile Army, which were to be the first to accept for continuation military tests full-fledged complexes 15P645. One division was part of the 94th missile regiment of the 23rd missile division stationed near Haapsalu in Estonia, and the second was the 50th separate missile division under the 638th missile regiment of the 31st missile division, where the first stage of military tests was carried out complex.
Models of RT-15 missiles on old-style launchers during the first stage of military tests. Photo from the site
The "ugly" who became the "scapegoat"
It was the 50th separate missile division that eventually became the first and only division of the Strategic Missile Forces, which was armed with the first domestic mobile combat missile system with a solid-propellant medium-range ballistic missile. On January 6, 1969, after the end of the State tests, the 15P696 complex with the RT-15 missile was recommended for adoption by the Strategic Missile Forces by a decree of the Council of Ministers of the USSR. True, only for trial operation, which would make it possible to study and work out the combat use of medium-range ballistic missiles on self-propelled launchers, and only in the amount of one regiment - that is, six launchers and a command post. True, it was rather big, because it consisted of eight vehicles, including seven on the MAZ-543 rocket carrier chassis: 15N809 combat control vehicle, 15V51 position preparation vehicle, two 15N694 diesel power plants and three vehicles as part of a mobile unit communications "Relief" (the eighth was a van for personnel).
Self-propelled launcher for the RT-15 rocket with a transport and launch container on a military march. Photo from the site
The newly created division was based at the Lesnaya missile base near Baranovichi. In March, all six installations of the complex and the mobile command post, as well as all other vehicles, entered the 50th separate missile division, and its personnel began to practice combat missions. Alas, in open sources, it was not possible to find any exact information about what they were and how they were carried out. One can only assume that the division was practicing the actions that it had to perform in real combat conditions. In other words, the soldiers and officers of the division carried out routine maintenance and maintenance of self-propelled launchers in the place of permanent deployment, left it on alarm and moved to the combat deployment, took positions, deployed the complex and practiced a conditional launch.
This was not an easy task: according to its idea, the 15P696 mobile combat missile system was supposed to provide autonomous combat alert, automated pre-launch preparation and salvo launch of six missiles at any time of the year or day, without special preparation of a combat position. At the same time, the complex had to quickly take this position and just as quickly fold in order to move to a new one: the ideology of its application was based on the principle of short-term combat duty in any arbitrarily chosen place, with full autonomy and automation of the processes of power supply, aiming and starting from a constant or full of combat readiness. At the same time, the order of battle of the complex looked very original and, as eyewitnesses say, beautiful. It was a hexagon, in the center of which a 15N809 combat control machine was installed with high geodetic accuracy. The "heart" of the machine was a hexagonal prism, to the edges of which the aiming devices of 15U59 self-propelled launchers were optically attached.
Vehicles from the command post of the 15P696 mobile combat missile system. Photo from the site
But no matter how active the service of the personnel of the 50th separate missile division was, it did not carry out real training launches, let alone combat ones. After 1970, when the last two test launches were carried out at the Kapustin Yar test site, not a single RT-15 rocket took off. Yes, and there was no such possibility: by the same resolution of the Council of Ministers, which accepted the complex for trial operation, the production of "tag" at the Leningrad plant "Arsenal" had M. V. Frunze was discontinued, and only those missiles that had been produced before that remained at the disposal of the military. And in 1971, the mobile combat missile system itself, for which they were produced, was removed from trial operation. As for the only unit commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Drozdov, the 50th separate missile division, after the complex was removed from trial operation, existed for another two years and was disbanded on July 1, 1973.
The first prototype of the SPU for the RT-15 rocket is on its way to the November parade in Moscow. Photo from the site
It is noteworthy that until the mid-1970s, NATO reference books had two different names for the same 15P696 complex. And the reason for this is the difference in containers for RT-15 missiles. The first version of the self-propelled launcher, which first drove across Red Square in 1965, was named Scamp, that is, "ugly" (this version of the translation is preferable given the nature of the installation). Seeing the same container on a slightly modified chassis a year later, foreign intelligence officers took it for a modification of the same complex. But then, when Western intelligence services received images of the same chassis with a new transport and launch container, and then data on test launches from these installations, in 1968 they assigned them the SS-X-14 index ("X" indicates the experimental nature of the sample weapons) and the name Scapegoat, that is, "the scapegoat." And only seven or eight years later, having figured out what was the matter, NATO experts assigned both names to the same complex, which in their reference books was listed as combat until 1984.