Extending the SS-25

SS-25 / Topol (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Guneyev)

Strat forces aren’t this author’s favorite or best subject.  Unlike some other Russian military issues, there are many places to turn for info on ICBMs, SLBMs, ALCMs, and their launchers.  Yet one still can’t resist a whack at yesterday’s story.

RVSN Commander General-Lieutenant Sergey Karakayev told the RVSN Veterans’ Union that Russia intends to, once again, extend the service life of its single-warhead mobile SS-25 / Topol ICBM force:

“Ongoing work to extend the service life of the Topol missile system to 25 years allows for keeping missile regiments with mobile launchers of this type on combat duty until 2019, until the start of their rearming with the new Yars mobile missile system.”

So, SS-25 regiments will gradually be rearmed with the MIRVed RS-24 / Yars.  Media outlets noted Russia is currently rearming its second RS-24 regiment, and its sixth silo-based SS-27 / Topol-M regiment.

This isn’t the first, and probably won’t be the last, service life extension for the SS-25, which had an original warranty of ten years.  Its life was extended to 20 years with a test in 2005, to 21 years in 2007, and 23 years, or until 2015 according to an RVSN spokesman, with a firing last October 28.

What caught one’s eye was Russianforces.org’s attention to the fact that the Russians say they’ll extend the service life by two more years (25), but the missiles will stay in the force four more years (2019).  Russianforces concludes Moscow must’ve been making SS-25s as late as 1994 rather than 1992.

In any event, it’s a cheap way to keep deployed ICBM numbers up, as long as the SS-25 performs.  A 25-year SS-25 lets them stretch RS-24 and SS-27 deployment timelines, find SS-18 and SS-19 replacements, and produce Bulava SLBMs at a time when there are many other demands on the defense budget.

Maybe it gets the RVSN to 2014 or 2015 before they have to deploy the RS-24 more quickly to replace retired SS-25s.  If they further extend the SS-25’s life, maybe they get close to 2018 or 2019 before the RS-24 deployments really pick up.

At any rate, it was notable that Karakayev put his stamp on the SS-25’s life extension.

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