Intercontinental ballistic missiles in Russia's strategic nuclear forces

Intercontinental ballistic missiles in Russia's strategic nuclear forces
Intercontinental ballistic missiles in Russia's strategic nuclear forces

Currently, the strategic missile forces and submarine forces of the navy are armed with intercontinental ballistic missiles of a number of types. Some of the products of this class have already been discontinued, but are still in operation. Others are produced and supplied to the troops; development of new samples is in progress. The process of updating the strategic nuclear forces continues, and the Department of Defense discloses its details from time to time.

On March 11, a regular expanded meeting of the State Duma Defense Committee took place, in which Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu took part. He revealed the main results of the activities of the military department in the period since 2012, including showing the current development of the strategic nuclear forces. So, in 2012-18, the Russian army received 109 RS-24 Yars ICBMs, as well as 108 ICBMs for submarines. Together with them, various types of carriers were also built.


PGRK RS-24 "Yars". Photo

The delivery of new ICBMs and various equipment made it possible to maintain the potential of the strategic nuclear forces at the required level, and also affected their general condition. So, in the Strategic Missile Forces, the share of modern weapons and equipment has reached 82%. The average share of new products in the Navy (excluding separate accounting for carriers of nuclear weapons) is 62.3%, in the aerospace forces - 74%. According to current plans, by 2020 the total share of modern samples in the army should be brought to 70%. As you can see, some army structures have already coped with this task, while others are still lagging behind.

Historical reference

For a better understanding of the development of strategic nuclear forces, namely the grouping of land-based and sea-based ICBMs, one should recall how such structures looked a few years ago. Since the Russian Ministry of Defense does not always publish detailed data on strategic forces, we turn to available foreign sources. First of all, consider the IISS reference The Military Balance 2013, which reflected the state of the armies in the previous 2012.

According to the IISS, in 2012, the Strategic Missile Forces of Russia had 3 missile armies, in which 313 ICBMs were on duty. At that time, the most massive complex was the RT-2PM Topol - 120 units in a mobile version. There were 78 RT-2PM2 Topol-M systems (60 in mines and 18 in mobile units). The presence of 54 heavy missiles R-36M and 40 UR-100N UTTH is indicated. As a result of the recently started deliveries, 21 newest RS-24 Yars missiles are on duty.


Complexes "Poplar" on the march. Photo by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation /

Eight strategic missile-carrying submarines of two types (Project 667BDR Kalmar and 667BDRM Dolphin) served in the Navy in 2012. One submarine of Project 941 "Akula" was in reserve, the lead ship, project 955 "Borey" was being tested. The Military Balance and other sources do not provide accurate data on the number of SLBMs on duty in 2012. However, it can be calculated that the SSBNs of the 667BDR project could carry up to 48 R-29R missiles, and the representatives of the 667BDRM project provided the deployment of up to 96 R-29RM / RMU2 / RMU2.1 products.

In the spring of 2013, the current data was published on the implementation of the terms of the START-3 Strategic Offensive Arms Treaty. As of March 1, 2013, the Russian strategic nuclear forces possessed 492 deployed carriers of nuclear weapons; the total number of carriers is 900.1,480 nuclear warheads were deployed. However, the published data on START-3 do not reveal the exact composition of the strategic nuclear forces and leave questions of a different kind.

The development of Russian strategic nuclear forces is clearly shown by the data of The Military Balance 2018. It follows from it that in the past few years, the Strategic Missile Forces and the Navy have retained missiles of already known types, but their proportions in the general grouping have changed. The share of old designs has declined as they give way to modern ones. In addition, new ICBMs and their carriers have entered service.

SSBN K-84 "Yekaterinburg" pr. 667BDRM "Dolphin". Photo by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation /

According to the IISS, at the beginning of last year, 313 missiles of the five previous types were still on duty in the Strategic Missile Forces. The number of RT-2PM systems was reduced to 63. The number of Topol-Ms did not change - as before, there were 60 missiles in the mines and 18 were used at the PGRK. There were 46 ICBMs of the R-36M type, the number of UR-100N UTTH decreased to 30. At the same time, the number of Yars products increased significantly over the course of five to six years. On duty there were 84 such ICBMs on mobile platforms and 12 in silos.

The underwater component of strategic nuclear forces has slightly increased by 2018. "Squids" and "Dolphins" remained in the same quantity, but three SSBNs of the "Borey" type were accepted into service. Each such submarine is capable of carrying 16 R-30 Bulava ICBMs. As before, exact data on the actual number of existing and deployed SLBMs were not provided.

Information on the progress of START-3 is available. So, on September 1, 2018, Russia had 790 carriers of nuclear weapons, of which 501 were deployed. The total number of deployed warheads is 1561. As before, publishing data on the implementation of the treaty, the parties did not go into details.


Launch of the R-36M rocket. Photo

Fluctuations in numbers

It should be noted that the number of ICBMs of all types on duty, as well as the number of deployed warheads, are constantly changing. First of all, this is due to the conduct of combat training launches. To carry out such measures, a weight simulator of a real warhead is installed on the rocket, which reduces the number of deployed warheads. The launch itself, accordingly, reduces the number of deployed missiles - until a new product is placed on the launcher.

According to various sources, in the period from 2012 to 2019, about two dozen launches of RT-2PM Topol missiles of various modifications took place. At the same time, only two launches of Topol-M were carried out. Yars rockets have flown eight times in recent years. Also carried out 13 launches of missiles of submarines "Bulava". Older types of products were launched.

Regular execution of combat training launches in a known way affects the number of missiles in the strategic nuclear forces. Moreover, such results directly depend on the type of product. The number of missiles of old models, long out of production, decreases with each launch, although a certain stock allows them to continue to operate. This applies to the UR-100N, R-36M, Topol and Topol-M complexes, as well as to old products of the R-29 family. At the same time, the production of modern missiles RS-24 "Yars" and R-30 "Bulava" is underway. In their case, each launch is followed by the delivery of new serial products, which leads to a gradual build-up of the available number of weapons.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles in Russia's strategic nuclear forces
Intercontinental ballistic missiles in Russia's strategic nuclear forces

Launch of UR-100N. Photo

We should recall the recent statements by the Minister of Defense. S. Shoigu pointed out that in 2012-19, the Strategic Missile Forces received 109 Yars-class ICBMs. 108 items were handed over to the fleet, but their type was not named. Apparently, we are talking about the simultaneous production and delivery of SLBMs of the R-29RMU2.1 and R-30 types. However, the exact composition of the latest deliveries and the share of different products in total volumes remain unknown.

Plans for the future

In the future, it is expected that a new heavy missile RS-28 "Sarmat" will be adopted, which will have to replace the outdated UR-100N and R-36M. With the start of deliveries of "Sarmat", the number of old products will decrease, but in general, the grouping of heavy ICBMs will not suffer or even increase.

One of the directions of development of the Strategic Missile Forces is the introduction of the so-called. winged gliding warheads. For the time being, it is proposed to use special hypersonic aircraft with a combat load of the Avangard type with UR-100N missiles, and in the future they will be carried by the newest RS-28. Serial production and mass operation of "Avangards", most likely, will reduce the number of deployed warheads, but at the same time will give the Strategic Missile Forces new opportunities.


Launch of RT-2PM ICBMs. Photo of the Strategic Missile Forces /

Further development of the naval component of the strategic nuclear forces is associated with the R-30 Bulava missiles. However, missile carriers play a key role in this matter. The construction of the strategic submarine cruisers of the project 955 "Borey" continues and leads to the desired results. Since the end of 2014, the Navy has had three such ships - a total of 48 launchers for Bulavs. This year, two more SSBNs are expected to be delivered, capable of carrying another 32 SLBMs. Then 3-5 more "Boreis" with 16 launchers on each should appear. Several ships of old projects will have to be written off at the same time. So, in the coming years, the service will be completed by three boats of the project 667BDR.

Despite the gradual expenditure of discontinued missiles and the decommissioning of some of their carriers, Russia's strategic nuclear forces retain the necessary potential and meet the requirements. Three components of the strategic nuclear forces can ensure the rapid deployment of the required or permissible number of carriers and warheads. It is also possible to change the ratio of deployed carriers and warheads in different components.

It should be borne in mind that the current and further development of strategic nuclear forces is still associated with the START-3 treaty. In accordance with this agreement, Russia has the right to have 800 carriers of nuclear weapons, of which 700 can be deployed. The number of deployed warheads is limited to 1,550. While the treaty is in effect, the Russian strategic nuclear forces have to take it into account when planning.


Launch of the Bulava SLBM from the Vladimir Monomakh nuclear submarine. Photo by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation /

At the same time, it should be noted that the capabilities of the available missiles and delivery vehicles, in theory, make it possible to deploy a large number of warheads and even exceed the START-3 limits by several times. However, our country does not violate international agreements, and besides, such a step would be simply inexpedient from the point of view of the economy and urgent tasks.

The START-3 treaty ends in February 2021. A replacement for him is being worked out, but this issue is not being resolved too quickly. There is some likelihood that after the expiration of these periods, offensive weapons will temporarily not be regulated by the new treaty. In this case, the Russian strategic nuclear forces can use the existing potential in terms of deploying additional carriers and warheads.

Some conclusions

At present, Russia's strategic nuclear forces can simultaneously keep on alert up to 450-500 land- and sea-based ICBMs. The potential number of warheads that can be carried by all available missiles exceeds several thousand. Naturally, given the limitations of START-3 and taking into account its capabilities, Russia does not fully realize this potential. ICBMs of all classes and types play a leading role in strategic nuclear forces, but at the same time leave work for the air component.


Throw tests of the RS-28 "Sarmat" missile. Photo by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation /

It is easy to see that in recent decades there has been a systematic and constant development of the ICBM sphere. Such development did not stop even during difficult periods, which only slowed down its progress. Now these processes are being implemented in the form of serial production and supply of new RS-24 Yars and R-30 Bulava missiles. From 2012 to the present, the armed forces have received almost 220 products of these types. The development of new ICBMs and warheads for them, including fundamentally new ones, is also underway.

In the future, it is planned to decommission some of the outdated missiles, and they will immediately be replaced with modern models. First of all, we are talking about the heavy UR-100N and R-36M, which are being replaced by the "Sarmat". In the field of light land-based ICBMs, the future is associated with Yars missiles, which have already become the main ones in their class and then will only strengthen their positions. The arsenals of the Navy's submarine forces are being updated in a similar way, but in this area the process of building new carriers for SLBMs plays a decisive role.

Obviously, strategic nuclear forces will remain a high priority in the future, while ICBMs of various types will remain their key component. Several conclusions can be drawn from this. First of all, you don't have to worry about the country's security. Strategic nuclear forces, possessing various weapons, will be able to cope with the task of strategic deterrence of potential adversaries. And besides, one can expect that in the foreseeable future, the leadership of the Ministry of Defense will again talk about the supply of strategic weapons, and it will again talk about hundreds of serial missiles over several years.

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