In 2021, it is planned to put into service a new missile system with an intercontinental ballistic missile RS-28 "Sarmat". At the moment, the new weapon is undergoing a test cycle, and the bulk of the data on it remains secret. However, official sources have already managed to disclose some of the information about the project, thanks to which the main features and capabilities of the promising rocket became known. The available data make it possible to understand why the Sarmat ICBM poses a particular threat to a potential adversary.
Over the past several years, the command of the strategic missile forces, as well as the military and political leadership of the country, have repeatedly raised the topic of the Sarmat project and announced various information about it. As a result, it became known that in 2021, the Strategic Missile Forces will receive a new complex with a heavy-class missile with the highest characteristics. Such weapons are intended to replace the old R-36M Voevoda ICBMs and should use the same launchers.
It is known that the new RS-28 rocket is distinguished by an improved propulsion system, which gives it the highest characteristics. In the past, the positive qualities of "Sarmat", provided by new efficient engines, have been repeatedly noted. It is the engines that make it possible to increase the combat stability and efficiency of combat work.
Due to the higher thrust of the engines, the RS-28 product differs from the previous domestic liquid-propellant ICBMs in the reduced duration of the active flight phase. This fact in a certain way makes it difficult for the enemy's anti-missile defenses to attack the target during acceleration, when it is most visible and vulnerable. In addition, this leads to the fact that during the acceleration and entering the trajectory "Sarmat" remains in a safe zone, inaccessible to the enemy missile defense.
New engines (possibly in combination with certain options for combat equipment) give the missile increased range characteristics. For example, back in 2014, Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said that the new missile system has practically no range restrictions. Warheads "Sarmat" will be able to fly to their targets through the North or South Pole. Later this information was confirmed by President Vladimir Putin. According to him, the firing range of the new RS-28 ICBM is superior to the existing R-36M. However, both in the past and now there are no exact data on the flight range.
For some time now, the definition of "global weapon" has been used in relation to "Sarmat". Indeed, the new propulsion system, in combination with various options for combat equipment, significantly increases the range of the missile system. The zone of responsibility of Russian missiles includes not only the territory of expected potential adversaries, but also other regions of the world. The practical value of such a weapon is obvious.
During last year's sensational address to the Federal Assembly, V. Putin said that the Sarmat would be able to carry a wide range of high-yield nuclear weapons. In terms of the number and power of warheads, it will surpass Voevoda. It also provides the possibility of using promising hypersonic gliding warheads - a fundamentally new combat equipment with unique characteristics and capabilities.
From the statements of the president it follows that in the version of the carrier of the traditional multiple warhead with individual guidance units, the RS-28 will be able to carry at least 10 warheads. The power of each warhead is at least 800 kt. However, it is not yet entirely clear how exactly the Sarmat will surpass the Voevoda in terms of the number and power of warheads and the composition of the MIRV. Along with warheads, the warhead must have decoys and other means of overcoming missile defense. The use of modern systems is declared, providing a breakthrough through existing and future defense complexes.
Of particular interest is the variant of the RS-28 complex with the Avangard hypersonic maneuvering warhead. While such products are used with missiles UR-100N UTTH, but in the future they will be transferred to modern "Sarmatians". According to known data, the product "Avangard" is a hypersonic glider with its own warhead, launched with the help of ICBMs. Previously, domestic missile systems were not equipped with similar products.
According to recent statements, the Avangard glider can reach speeds up to M = 27 in flight. It carries a special warhead and is capable of delivering it to an intercontinental range. Planned flight with the ability to perform maneuvers makes effective interception impossible using existing air defense and missile defense systems. At the same time, increased accuracy of hitting targets is ensured.
In all likelihood, in the future, the Sarmat ICBMs with different variants of combat equipment will take up combat duty. Nevertheless, the exact composition of the warheads and the proportions of different items in the general grouping remain unknown, and are unlikely to be revealed in the foreseeable future.
From open data it follows that the RS-28 "Sarmat" ICBM is a milestone development of a kind. It is obvious that missiles with enhanced combat characteristics are becoming a priority target for a first strike from a potential enemy. Such risks have been taken into account when developing new Russian weapons. As far as is known, in parallel with the "Sarmat", new means are being created for the operation and protection of missiles.
In the future, missiles of the new type will be placed in existing silo launchers, freed from obsolete weapons. Such structures themselves have a high level of protection against direct impact, and in addition, they must be equipped with additional means. In 2013, work was resumed on the topic of active protection complexes for missile silos. In the past, such a system has proven its capabilities in practice, and in the future, serial samples of this kind will have to provide protection for the "Sarmat" on duty.
If all current plans are fulfilled, the silo complex of the "Sarmat" complex will become an extremely difficult target for the first attack of the enemy, capable of retaining its efficiency with a high probability and providing a retaliatory attack. In the event that an approaching ICBM warhead or other enemy means of destruction is detected, the KAZ silo will have to shoot it down at a safe distance. If the ammunition can pass through the defense systems, the missile will remain intact thanks to the robust launcher. It should be noted that the methods of passive protection of silos and ICBMs have been worked out quite a long time ago, while active protection systems are a novelty.
Threat from the future
The RS-28 "Sarmat" product poses a serious threat to a potential enemy, but all the risks associated with it are still problems of the future. The first missiles of the new type will take over duty in 2021, and the full replacement of the outdated R-36M will take place only a few years after that. Thus, in the coming years, a potential adversary will be deterred mainly by existing ICBMs.
Nevertheless, the moment of adoption of "Sarmat" into service is approaching, and the industry is doing everything necessary for this. In a new message to the Federal Assembly on February 20, V. Putin mentioned the continuation of tests of the RS-28 product, but did not go into details. On the same day, the Zvezda TV channel published some data on the current success of the project.
Last year, the stage of drop tests of the new missile was successfully completed. In the course of this work, fifty design and test tasks were completed. It was possible to confirm the correctness of the design solutions used in the project. Also, bench tests of the rocket engines were carried out. Practical work is underway on the stage of breeding.
At the same time, the industry is preparing for the serial production of missiles and facilities of the Ministry of Defense for new tests. So, at the Plesetsk test site, the infrastructure for flight and state tests of the "Sarmat" is being completed. The enterprises involved in the project are renewing their production capacities, which in the future will allow them to participate in the assembly of an experimental batch of missiles, and then master the series.
This year, at the Plesetsk test site, the first test launch of a new rocket is to take place, followed by a full-fledged flight and hitting a conditional target at the Kamchatka Kura test site. Flight tests should be completed in 2020-21, after which the missile system will be put into service. Further, full-fledged mass production will begin, with missiles on alert.
It is in 2021 that the RS-28 ICBMs will begin to realize their potential and become a new military-political instrument. At first, they will solve common problems along with the outdated R-36M, but then they will completely replace them and completely occupy the corresponding niche. Most likely, the renewal of the arsenals of heavy ICBMs will not lead to a noticeable change in quantitative indicators, and in the future there will be about the same number of Sarmats on duty as the Voevod is now. However, one should expect a noticeable growth of a qualitative nature, provided by an increase in characteristics and the receipt of new opportunities.
Thus, by the middle of the next decade, Russia will have a promising new strategic deterrent instrument with special capabilities. The threat of retaliatory use of RS-28 “Sarmat” missiles, capable of breaking through any existing missile defense and delivering precise strikes using one or another combat equipment, should have a sobering effect on overly ardent representatives of the command of a potential adversary.