Tag Archives: Sergey Karakayev

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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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.

New 33rd Missile Army Commander

The RVSN yesterday also announced General-Major Aleksandr Ponomarenko as the new commander of its 33rd (Omsk) Missile Army.  He had been chief of staff, first deputy commander of the 27th (Vladimir) Missile Army from 2006 until now.  He served under current RVSN Commander General-Lieutenant Karakayev when he commanded the 27th Missile Army in 2006-2008.

Ponomarenko’s predecessor in the 33rd Missile Army, General-Lieutenant Gennadiy Privalov recently retired.

Ponomarenko commanded the 31st (Orenburg) Missile Army’s 42nd (Nizhniy Tagil) Missile Division in 2000-2003.

In mid-1998, he was a lieutenant colonel commanding a regiment in the Vladimir Missile Army’s 54th (Teykovo) Missile Division.

Routine Change of Command or Not?

Kommersant published some extra details on Sergey Karakayev’s career.  He has served in all RVSN command and staff duties.  He began in the 320th Missile Regiment, 7 th Missile Division (Bologoye-4, Tver Oblast) as a group engineer, training and launch group commander, and finally chief of staff.  In 1994, he became a regiment commander, then chief of staff in the 28th Missile Division (Kozelsk-5, Kaluga Oblast).  He commanded this division from 1998-2001.  Then he headed the Second Department, First Directorate, Main Personnel Directorate.  During 2006-2008, he commanded 27 th (Vladimir) Missile Army.  On October 22, 2009, Karakayev became First Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff of the RVSN.

A source told Kommersant Karakayev’s appointment was ‘expected,’ adding that Andrey Shvaychenko requested retirement on 9 June and left on leave.  The source claimed he’d reached the service age limit of 55 for two-star generals, but this isn’t correct.  Shvaychenko actually turned 57 on 18 June.  Kommersant’s interlocutor went on to say that Shvaychenko himself recommended Karakayev to  succeed him.

Academy of Military Sciences strategic arms expert Yuriy Rubtsov told Svobodnaya pressa the change at the top of the RVSN may be related to difficulties in, and disagreements over, modernizing the Russian ICBM force under the new strategic arms agreement. 

According to Rubtsov, the RVSN will have to trim its ICBMs by a third under the new arms treaty.  But new missiles are arriving in the force in only miserly portions, and don’t replace what has to be scrapped.  No matter how much the service lives of ICBMs on combat duty since Soviet times have been extended, they still have to be cut, ultimately in 2015.

Svpressa cites NATO estimates that at most 7 Topols are reaching the RVSN each year.  At such a tempo, it’s essential to keep old weapons a little longer.  A sufficient number of Topol-M missile units have not been created, so the SS-18 and SS-19 still underpin Russia’s delivery of unacceptable damage on the enemy.  But Russia continues unilateral disarmament.  According to Svpressa, in such a situation, the more often you change RVSN Commanders, the easier it is to control them and not allow opposition to your strategic nuclear policy. 

Svpressa speculates maybe replacing Shvaychenko was President Medvedev’s way of flexing his muscles before the U.S. visit, grabbing some attention, and signaling Obama that Russia is disarming as agreed and everything is OK.

Karakayev Replaces Shvaychenko as RVSN Commander

Lots of action near the top of the Russian military pyramid today . . . 

General-Lieutenant Andrey Shvaychenko’s exceptionally brief tenure as RVSN Commander came to an abrupt and unexpected end.  He just turned 57 on June 18, and only commanded Russia’s land-based strategic forces for a little over 10 months.  His predecessor—Nikolay Solovtsov—served for 8 years. 

Already past retirement age for his two-star rank, President Medvedev and Defense Minister Serdyukov apparently decided to replace rather than promote him. 

The timing of Shvaychenko’s replacement is interesting and most likely not accidental, to say the least.  The Russians have swapped out a key figure just as they enter the process of ratifying a new strategic arms treaty with the United States. 

General-Lieutenant Sergey Viktorovich Karakayev replaces Shvaychenko.  Like his predecessor, he’s a two-star general, but 8 years younger.  He served as Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the RVSN just since last October.  He occupied RVSN command positions up to and including missile division commander and Vladimir Missile Army commander in 2006-2008.  

General-Lieutenant Karakayev

Somewhat atypically, he served some time as a department chief in the Defense Ministry’s Main Personnel Directorate.  He completed studies in the civilian North-Western State Service Academy before finishing the General Staff Academy.  He holds a doctorate in military science.  His full biography is here

Kremlin.ru provided the following excerpt from today’s Gorki meeting between Medvedev, Serdyukov, and Karakayev: 

“This is a serious position.  The functioning of our nuclear shield depends on work in these duties.  And of course, I hope that you will do everything necessary, everything dependent on you to apply your knowledge, your experience for the good of the country, to create the right RVSN command and control system.” 

“Despite the fact that we are reducing our nuclear arsenal, this must not affect the combat core within the limits of that agreement which is currently operative for us, and within the limits of that agreement which is in ratification.” 

“Generally, it’s necessary to do everything so that our Rocket Troops of Strategic Designation will be fully combat ready and can fulfill their established missions.” 

Karakayev gave a customarily brief response: 

“Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief, I will not fail.” 

Pervyy kanal covered also covered the Gorki meeting, if you’d like some video.  

The change in the RVSN may be a result of the bumps and bruises of reaching internal agreement to go forward with the new strategic offensive arms treaty.  Or maybe not.  But something’s clearly wrong; a ten-month tenure is clearly far off the norm.  Medvedev’s short comments aren’t much to go on, but they seem to say (a) Shvaychenko wasn’t doing the job the way his masters wanted; (b) the masters want an improved strategic nuclear command and control system; (c) the new arms treaty doesn’t threaten Russia’s nuclear deterrence capability and, therefore, is a good deal for Moscow; and (d) the RVSN Commander needs to focus his attention on the optimal operation of whatever weapons systems provided him by the country’s leadership.  And Karakayev indicated in front of the cameras that he’s on-board with all this. 

Armaments Chief Vladimir Popovkin also replaced First Deputy Defense Minister, General-Colonel  Aleksandr Kolmakov.  Popovkin seems to have accommodated Serdyukov, and fit well into the Defense Minister’s ‘new profile.’  The ex-Space Troops general seems to be the type of official the civilian leadership wants in its more civilian Defense Ministry.  He will keep charge of the weapons portfolio, and training and readiness accounts overseen by Kolmakov will probably go back to the Genshtab.  But more on this one tomorrow.