Tag Archives: SS-25

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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Strategic Forces Training

Russia fired two SLBMs and an ICBM today.  Pacific Fleet Delta III SSBN Saint Georgiy Pobedonosets launched an SS-N-18 (RSM-50) SLBM from the Sea of Okhotsk.  Northern Fleet Delta IV SSBN Bryansk fired a Sineva (RSM-54) SLBM from the Barents Sea. 

And a crew from the Vladimir Missile Army’s Bologoye Division launched an SS-25 (RS-12M/Topol) ICBM from Plesetsk.

An RVSN spokesman said this launch allows Russia to extend the service life of this grouping of SS-25s to 23 years or until about 2015, and to conduct a planned replacement of these missiles without overburdening the military’s budget.

Yesterday Tu-95MS and Tu-22M3 bombers launched weapons on ranges in Irkutsk and Komi as part of an Air Forces exercise.

According to some reports, the Navy may test fire the Bulava SLBM for the second time in 2010 tomorrow.

Litovkin on What the GPV Will Buy

Viktor Litovkin (photo: RIA Novosti)

Returning to procurement and the GPV . . . in this week’s Delovoy vtornik, NVO’s Viktor Litovkin also asks what will 19 trillion rubles be spent on. 

He says the answer isn’t simple.  During the last 20 years of ‘starvation rations,’ the armed forces got handfuls of essential combat equipment, and, meanwhile, a dangerous imbalance between strike and combat support systems was created.  And this was obvious against Georgia in 2008. 

Litovkin says this imbalance has to be corrected, meanwhile priorities like strategic nuclear forces can’t be forgotten – not just the offensive triad, but also the missile attack early warning system (SPRN), missile defense (PRO), and aerospace defense (VKO). 

Like Viktor Yesin of late, Litovkin asks how Russia will replace its aging strategic offensive arms to stay up to the limits of the Prague / New START agreement.  Half the Russian force is SS-18, SS-19, and SS-25 ICBMs which will be retired in 7-10 years.  Moscow needs to build 400 strategic systems to replace them.  He doesn’t even mention Delta III and IV SSBNs and their aging SLBMS.  And Russia has only the SS-27, RS-24 Yars, Sineva, and Bulava to replace them. 

Litovkin expects a very large amount of money to be spent not just on replacing strategic systems, but also reequipping the enterprises that produce them. 

He turns to his second priority – also demonstrated by the Georgian war – precision-guided weapons, which in turn depend on reconnaissance-information support and equipment in space, on long-range surveillance aircraft [AWACS], and UAVs. 

Priority three – automated command and control systems (ASU).  He cites Popovkin on linking all service C2 systems into one system over 2-3 years. 

Litovkin says you can’t forget about the Navy, but he mentions just the Borey-class SSBNs, and the need for a wide range of surface ships.  And he makes the point [made by many] that Mistral is all well and good, but it’ll have to have multipurpose combatants operating in its battle group.  They need to be built, and they won’t cost a small amount of money. 

One can’t forget aviation either.  Litovkin cites a $100 million per copy cost for 60 fifth generation fighters [that’s a significant 180-billion-ruble bite out of the GPV].  He notes Vega is working on an updated Russian AWACS (A-100).  And, like Korotchenko, he mentions transport aircraft, but also combat and support helicopters. 

And so, says Litovkin, the question arises – isn’t the country putting out a lot of money to rearm its army? 

Viktor Litovkin (photo: Ekho Moskvy)

Being bold, he says, not really.  He actually uses that accursed 22 trillion figure, which is procurement for all power ministries.  If he used 19 trillion, it would be 1.9 trillion or $63 billion per year for Russia against $636 billion for the U.S., $78 billion for China, $58 billion for the U.K., and $51 billion for Japan.  But he doesn’t say this is annual procurement, the GPV, against the total annual defense budget for these other countries.  A bit of comparing one piece of pie to a whole pie.  Nevertheless, he concludes this makes Russia far from champion when it comes to military expenditures. 

Litovkin’s last word is Russia will remain one of the G8 with a powerful, combat capable, and effective army, but without it, only a raw materials appendage of either the West or East. 

But one wonders, hasn’t Russia long been in the G8 without that kind of armed forces?  Doesn’t breaking away from the raw materials supplier role have more to do with developing an open, attractive, innovative, value-added, and competitive economy (and a political system and society to match) than with military power? 

New 31st Missile Army Commander

The RVSN today announced General-Major Anatoliy Grigoryevich Kulay as the new commander of its 31st (Orenburg) Missile Army.  Kulay had been its chief of staff and first deputy commander since early 2010.  He replaced General-Lieutenant Ivan Reva, who not long ago became the RVSN’s chief of staff and first deputy commander.

Kulay commanded the 33rd (Omsk) Missile Army’s  29th Guards Vitebsk Order of Lenin Red Banner Missile Division (aka the Irkutsk Missile Division), and its three regiments of RT-2PM ‘Topol’ (SS-25) ICBMs between 2006 and 2010.  His division was one of Russia’s two best mobile ICBM divisions based on the results of the 2006 training year.  It was one of Russia’s best again in 2007.  In early 2008, Kulay made one-star.  Prior to 2006, Kulay was an SS-25 missile regiment commander in the former 8th (Yurya or Pervomayskiy) Missile Division, Orenburg Missile Army.

He’s 44, and was commissioned from the Serpukhov Higher Military-Command-Engineering School of Missile Troops.  He’s a graduate of both his senior service school – the Peter the Great Military Academy of the RVSN – and the General Staff Academy.

The RVSN also appointed General-Major Aleksandr Ponomarenko commander of the Omsk Missile Army.  He had been chief of staff and first deputy commander of the Vladimir Missile Army.  More on him later.