Tag Archives: ICBM

Defense News

Some Russian defense news from April 17-18, 2012 . . .

Militaryparitet.com provided a link to an interesting Livejournal site.  The latter’s apparently been scouring government tender offers, and located one worth 600 million rubles for work to upgrade Votkinsk for Yars ICBM production.

According to RIA Novosti, a Rosoboroneksport official says talks with China about selling the Su-35 are frozen because the PRC wants to buy only a limited number of the new fighters.

Interesting that France, Italy, etc. don’t use the same logic when Moscow talks about purchasing samples.

Vzglyad.ru covered the release of SIPRI’s global military expenditure report for 2011.  The U.S. spent 41 percent of the world’s total, China 8, Russia 4.

Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov talked to the Federation Council about military housing.  He told Senators 60,000 permanent and service apartments were ready to be occupied at the beginning of this year.  See TV Zvezda coverage.

At least for the camera, Pankov didn’t offer an explanation why such a large number were waiting to be occupied.

22nd Army Commander, General-Major Sergey Yudin’s traded his command for a staff job.  He’s now the Chief, OMU for the Western MD.  See Mil.ru.

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Strategic Fireworks

Warhead Impact Crater (photo: Novaya gazeta)

Being practically the eve of Victory Day, news is hard to come by.  

Novaya gazeta, however, was nice enough to print an interesting article about Russia’s strategic shooting gallery — Kamchatka’s Kura test range.

The author says, from the air, this 13,206 square kilometer patch of taiga looks like an unattractive golf course with a great quantity of holes.  In Kura’s 55-year history, more than 5,500 “items” have landed here.

Kura was called Kama at the time of its establishment in 1955, and two years later, the first missile, an R-7 (SS-6 / Sapwood) — the world’s first ICBM, landed here.

Why this site?  An old hand at the Independent Scientific-Testing Station of Space Forces explains:

“There are several reasons for this.  Firstly, this is one of the most remote regions, that is it’s possible to test missiles here not only for firing accuracy, but for range.  Secondly, the trajectory of all flights was conducted only over the USSR’s territory.  Thirdly, the range was laid out at a great distance from populated points and airline routes.”

So, the military’s calculations were correct.  No aircraft or people ever suffered from a stray missile, but not every “item” landed as intended.  They cut into mountains, or splashed in the ocean.  In the early 1980s, one caused casualties in a Koryak reindeer herd.

Kura Test Range

“Items” land here less frequently now, not more than 20 per year.  In the past, there were up to 250 per year.  The old hand continues:

“In the Soviet years, warheads poured from the sky like off a conveyor belt.  Not just military here, but scientific life was also cooking here.  Groups from scientific-research institutes who were creating the Soviet ‘star’ program as a counterweight to the American SDI constantly came here.  But after perestroyka, most scientific research was rolled up.”

He says the range’s helicopter pilots are marvelous fliers, but it’s often the bears who first find what’s fallen from the heavens.  All the oxidized metal is bad for the environment, of course.

The local garrison is just tens of kilometers from the Klyuchevskaya Sopka volcano, and its ash and sulfuric acid takes a toll on equipment.

The author says the locals say the warhead flights are spectacular.  At first, there’s a bright star in the night sky, rapidly approaching the ground.  Then a flash so powerful the street’s lit like daytime, but doomsday lasts not more than a second.  In an instant, the big star separates into several smaller ones.  Up to 10 warheads separate from the platform and fly at their own targets.  Cooler than any fireworks.

V / ch 25522 has 200 conscripts, about the same number of contractees, and 500 officers.  Life in the garrison town is generally good.  Soldiers preferred the old “Afghan” uniforms to the new ones from Yudashkin.  The barracks are warm, and there’s been no violence or hazing in recent years, but there’s not much free time (or much to do) either.  Soldiers can use their cell phones on days off.

For Space Troops officers, service here is considered prestigious, and the pay is almost three times that in units in Central Russia.  A year of service here counts double for hardship.  The stores are significantly better stocked here than on the “mainland,” but the prices are also 2-3 times higher.

Like everywhere, officers are being retired or put in civilian billets.  Engineer pay at the range, with supplements and coefficients, is 25-30 thousand rubles a month.  A lieutenant colonel gets 50-60 thousand.

Winter is seven months, and earthquakes a daily occurrence.  The volcanic ash isn’t good for people, but it isn’t deadly, they say.

Many officers have served at Kura since the early or mid-1990s, and they don’t complain.  The work is interesting, and the surroundings beautiful.  Things are better than 10 years ago when personnel didn’t get paid, and pilots had to buy their own spares for their helicopters.  Now equipment gets repaired, and the pay’s on time.

Popovkin Details the GPV

Yesterday First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin gave RIA Novosti more details on Russia’s procurement plans under the State Program of Armaments (GPV), 2011-2020.  He said 78-80 percent of the 19-trillion-ruble Armed Forces portion of the GPV will go to procurement.   

Popovkin said Russia plans to develop a new liquid-fueled heavy ICBM to carry up to ten warheads, and having a service life of up to 35 years.  Former RVSN Commander General-Lieutenant Andrey Shvaychenko talked about a new liquid heavy as far back as late 2009, and the issue’s been debated in the Russian military press since. 

Popovkin said the Defense Ministry plans to accept the Bulava SLBM and the first two Borey-class SSBNs this year.  There will be 4-5 Bulava launches this year.  Recall to date only 7 of 14 Bulava tests have been successful.  Addressing the missile’s past failures, Popovkin said there were many deviations from the design documentation during production.  He also said Russia plans to build eight SSBNs to carry Bulava by 2020.  He was unclear if this includes the first two Borey-class boats.

Popovkin said work on a new strategic bomber is ongoing, and he claimed a technical design will be complete in 2015.  He said this work isn’t being rushed.

Popovkin told RIA Novosti  the Air Forces will receive more than 600 new aircraft and 1,000 new helicopters by 2020.  In 2011, Su-27SM, Su-30M2, Su-35S, Yak-130, and Su-34 aircraft are to be procured.  More than 100 helicopters, including Mi-26 transports and Mi-28N and Ka-52 combat helicopters will be acquired this year, according to Popovkin. 

Popovkin said a contract for the first ten experimental PAK FA (T-50) aircraft will be signed in 2013, with serial production of 60 aircraft beginning in 2016.

The GPV includes the purchase of ten S-500 air defense systems.  Popovkin said this system will begin testing in 2015, initially with missiles from the S-400.  Fifty-six S-400 units will also be purchased by 2020.  This sounds like seven 8-launcher battalions.   

Popovkin said the GPV will buy 100 ships – including 20 submarines, 35 corvettes, and 15 frigates – for the Navy.  He didn’t specify types for the other 30 ships, and it’s unclear if new SSBNs are included in these numbers.  Popovkin reconfirmed Russia’s plan to buy two and build two Mistral amphibious ships.  Recall also the Black Sea Fleet alone is supposed to get 18 new ships including proyekt 636 diesel-electric submarines, proyekt 11356 and 22350 frigates, and proyekt 11711 LSTs.

Popovkin also mentioned plans to buy a limited number of French FELIN soldier systems, with the intent of Russia producing its own version by 2020.  He looks for it to equal the advertised capabilities of U.S. and German equivalents.

Solomonov on Need for Increased Missile Production

MIT General Designer Yuriy Solomonov told Interfaks yesterday Russia needs to increase intercontinental ballistic missile production in the coming years to preserve its strategic nuclear forces (SYaS or СЯС).  See a more complete version of his remarks at Arms-expo.ru.  He said:

“We have two years at our disposition to be in a condition, proceeding from implementation of the production preparation program, to get all cooperation ready for the possibility of manufacturing a large quantity of products.  Many times more than have been made previously.”

He said Russia has produced 6-10 missiles per year over the last ten years.  And he acknowledged that plans for increased production volume may not be fulfilled:

“All this rests, with respect to corporate enterprises, on resolving the task of allocating them investment.  And the regulatory-technical base — the way officials interpret it — doesn’t allow for resolving this task.  If it isn’t resolved, it’s possible to say unequivocally that the task of significantly increasing the volume of products delivered by 2013 won’t be fulfilled either.”

So he’s saying the reluctant state will need to invest in Votkinsk and its component suppliers?

Solomonov notes that the Votkinsk plant, manufacturer of the Topol-M and RS-24 ICBMs, produced up to 120 Pioner (SS-20) medium-range missiles a year between 1980 and 1987.  He says:

“It follows from this that the production capabilities of the factory undoubtedly allow it to realize, proceeding from this potential, production of a substantially larger quantity of missiles than in the preceding ten years.”

I’m Good Until 2026

Happy 51st RVSN Day . . . Commander General-Lieutenant Sergey Karakayev indicated that service life extension can keep Voyevoda, Stiletto, and Topol in the strategic missile inventory until 2026.  The RVSN is working on ICBM modernization, and has RDT&E in the GPV to deal with new challenges and threats to its missile force.

According to ITAR-TASS, Karakayev said:

“Nevertheless, the service life of the RS-18 ICBM (U.S. and NATO classification Stiletto) has already reached 33 years.  For the RS-20V missile (Voyevoda) and RS-12M (Topol), this term is 23 and 24 years respectively.  And the initial warranty period was defined as 10-15 years.  Practice has shown that the service life of the systems considerably exceeds the established warranty term of use.  It is quite difficult now to determine definitely what kind of safety margin there is.  A series of experimental-design work is being conducted with this goal.”

“The economic expedience of such work is obvious.  For example, extending the service life of the RS-20V (Voyevoda) missile system will allow us to keep the world’s most powerful missiles in the RVSN force until 2026.  Such possibilities also exist for RS-18 and RS-12M missiles.”

“Replacing them with new missiles would require financial outlays far exceeding expenditures on this work.  At present, there are no unresolved technical problems to the further extension of the service lives of the missile systems.”

“Together with the general designers from a whole row of domestic industrial enterprises and organizations, the missile troops are conducting work not only to support the condition and the improvement of existing missile armament, but also their significant modernization, with a constant goal:  under any conditions, to provide a guaranteed resolution of the missions of nuclear deterrence.  Everything is subordinate to this, including measures to modernize the combat equipment of missile systems, which are fully adequate for both the emerging and forecasted military-strategic environment.”

“The scientific-technical and design pool of domestic military missile building will allow us to react flexibly to rising challenges and threats to Russia’s security.  The RDT&E laid out in the State Program of Armaments for 2011-2020 is directed at this.”

Karakayev on ICBMs

On Tuesday (30 November), RVSN Commander, General-Lieutenant Sergey Karakayev had his first encounter with the media since taking over the land-based strategic missile force in June.  Krasnaya zvezda covered it, of course. 

Karakayev said all newly deployed mobile Topol-Ms will be the MIRVed (RS-24 / Yars) variant rather than single-warhead missiles.  He said a sixth silo-based Topol-M regiment will go on combat duty at Tatishchevo this month, and more silo-based deployments will occur next year.

Karakayev also said:

“To support the required balance of forces in carrying out the mission of nuclear deterrence, qualitative improvement of the components of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces [SYaS or СЯС] is required.  Russia’s missile industry will continue development of new missile systems, including new technical solutions incorporated within missile systems of the ‘Topol-M’ type.”

The media repeated ITAR-TASS to the effect that most experts think this means Moscow will develop a heavy silo-based ICBM to replace Russia’s remaining ‘heavies’ — UR-100NUTTKh (SS-19 / Stiletto) and R-36M2 (RS-20V or Voyevoda, SS-18 / Satan Mod 6).

Rossiyskaya gazeta added that 10,000 military and 8,000 civilian posts in the RVSN had been cut over the past 5 years.  But further cuts in RVSN armies, divisions, and regiments aren’t anticipated.

Medvedev Inspects Strategic Forces

In Friday’s Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye, Viktor Litovkin claimed, the day before, President Dmitriy Medvedev visited the inner sanctum of Russia’s Aerospace Defense (VKO or ВКО) – the Central Command Post (ЦКП) of the 3rd Independent Air Defense (Missile Warning) Army in Solnechnogorsk.  Now Litovkin admits VKO doesn’t technically exist yet.  But preparations are underway, and he suggests, besides PVO, SPRN, PRO, space monitoring, etc., it will even include the RVSN.  Litovkin maintains tests of this system are ongoing, and Medvedev came to inspect it.  He watched troops track all three of Thursday’s SLBM and ICBM launches, and saw the missiles’ warheads land on their respective targets.  And, according to Litovkin, the point was to demonstrate the reliability of Russia’s nuclear missile capability to Medvedev as new SNV treaty limits loom.

Could the shrinking RVSN be subsumed under VKO as a new service or branch?  Could this explain the fairly rapid command shifts from Solovtsov to Shvaychenko to Karakayev?