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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


R-36M Voyevoda (Governor) / SS-18 SATAN

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on 05 November 2008 cancelled the order to disband three regiments of the 28th Guards Missile Division of Russia's missile forces in Kozelsk, Kaluga Region. Steps to disband it began in 2007. It includes five missile regiments, or 46 silo launchers of SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missiles.

By one report, in 2003 some 30 RS-18 missiles were bought by Russia from Ukraine, where they were stored in a dismantled state. Now they can be considered as "new" and put on permanent duty until 2030. This transaction is not widely attested. U.S. and Russian arsenals currently conform to limits set by the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction (START) Treaty; a second START treaty - START II - signed in 1993 was never ratified in the same form by both sides. The START II treaty required Russia to destroy each deployed SS-18 under the watchful eyes of US inspectors. But it did not call for destruction of warehoused spare and test SS-18 boosters, which by one 1994 estimate could number well over 100. Unlike all previous nuclear arms control pacts, the Moscow Treaty does not limit delivery vehicles, only warheads. Neither side is obligated to dismantle any of the missiles, bombers or submarines that could deliver strategic warheads.

The R-36m / SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile was a large, two-stage, tandem, storable liquid-propellant inertial guided missile developed as a replacement to the base R-36 ICBM. The R-36M was a hardened silo housed, highly accurate 4th generation system, physically larger than the most modern US ICBMs deployed at the time. The US Minuteman silos (at 300 psi) were believed to be vulnerable to SS-18 systems. By 1975, analysts argued that few Minuteman could be expected to survive a Soviet attack. The vulnerability of U.S. land based strategic missiles systems to Soviet ICBMs became one of the major issues in U.S. strategic debates in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The R-36M (15A14) Mods 5, & Mod 6 (15A18M) was a two-stage missile capable of carrying several different warheads. The basic design is similar to the original R-36 missile, the M was modified to include advanced technologies and more powerful engines. This missile, using Nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) and heptyl (a UDMH [unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine] compound) has a first stage powered by a 460-ton-thrust engines with four combustion chambers, and the second by a single-chamber 77-ton-thrust motor. The first stage uses four closed-cycle single chambered rocket engines. The second stage was equipped with a closed-cycle single chambered sustainer engine and an open-cycle four chambered control motor with a built in sustainer in the toroidal cavity of the fuel tank. The flight control of the first stage was conducted through gimbaled sustainers that used asymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetraoxide. The missile was equipped with an autonomous inertial command structure and an onboard digital computer.

The R-36M used a gas-dynamic system for both the first and second stages that pressurized the propellant tanks through the opening of special ports. This obviated the need for the use of pressurized gases from tanks as well as chemical tank pressurization methods (injecting small amounts of fuel in the oxidizer tank and oxidizer into the fuel tank). These design improvements as well as more effective engines allowed an increase in the total liftoff weight from 183 tons to 209.6 ton and the throw weight from 5.8 tons to 8.8 tons, while preserving the overall dimensions of its predecessor missile.

The SS-18 was deployed in modified SS-9 silos, and employed a cold-launch technique with the missile being ejected from the silo prior to main engine ignition. The rocket was placed in a fiberglass composite transport-launch canister, which was subsequently placed into an retrofitted R-36 silo. The special hardened silo was 39 meters deep and had a diameter of 5.9 meters. As previously stated, the missile was ejected from the container prior to main engine ignition. This was done through the help of a solid-propellant gas generator located in the lower unit of the transport-launch canister. According to Western estimates, the SS-18 was deployed in a silo with a hardness of at least 4,000 psi (281 kg/sq. cm; 287 bar), and possibly as high as 6,000 psi (422 kg/sq. cm; 430 bar).

The development of the two stage heavy liquid-propellant ICBM R-36M intended to replace the R-36 SS-9 Scarp was accepted on 02 September 1969. The preliminary design was completed in December 1969 by the Yuzhnoye design bureau. The system was designed by the M. K. Yangel OKB Yuzhnoye at Dnepropetrovsk (Ukraine) during 1966-1972. Testing began in November 1972. It was deployed in January 1975 and integrated with the weapons arsenal in December 1975.

As of 1992, 88 SS-18 missile launchers had been deployed in Russia, most of them at the Dombarovsky missile base in the Orenburg Region, in the southern Urals.

As of 01 April 2005 Kommersant reported that the Strategic Missile Force of Russia had 496 ICBMs, including 226 silo-launched (86 heavy missiles R-36MUTTH and R-36M2 Voevoda, 10 medium missiles UR-100NUTTH, and 40 light missiles RS-12M2 Topol-M) and 270 mobile ground-launched missiles RS-12M Topol. By 2010, the Force may have no more than 313 ICBMs, including 154 silo-launched (40 R-36M2 Voevoda, 50 UR-100NUTTH, and 64 RS-12M2 Topol M), and 159 mobile ground-launched missiles (144 RS-12M Topol and 15 RS-12M1 Topol M). The number of warheads on the ICBMs will be reduced from 1,770 to 923. [upon close inspection these numbers don't exactly add up and are internally inconsistent, based on standard warhead loading assumptions]

On 26 August 2005 Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said said the Soviet-era Voyevoda heavy missiles (whose NATO reporting name is Satan) could remain in service for a long time. "What we launch today are missiles with an expired service life," Ivanov said. In this way, the Defense Ministry can check the condition of missiles with an expired service life and save large amount of money on their disposal," Ivanov said.

Russia's Strategic Missile Forces conducted 21 December 2006 a successful test launch of a RS-20V Voyevoda (NATO codename SS-18 Satan) intercontinental ballistic missile. The launch was conducted to test the RS-20V's flight and technical characteristics to extend the service life of the R-36M2 missile systems from 19 to 20 years.

The chief of the Russian General Staff on 20 February 2007 praised the RS-20 Voyevoda missile systems (NATO codename SS-18 Satan) and said the extension of their service life is linked to Russia's security. "Maintaining these intercontinental ballistic missiles on combat duty with guaranteed nuclear security makes it possible to retool the ground element of the strategic nuclear forces with new armaments with lower expenditure," Army General Yury Baluyevsky told government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

On 30 July 2007 Russia's Strategic Missile Forces said that the RS-20 Voyevoda (SS-18 Satan) intercontinental ballistic missile, adopted exactly 20 years earlier, will remain in service until 2014-16. A spokesman for the forces said the missile remains the most powerful ICBM in the world.

On 12 February 2008 President Vladimir Putin ratified a Russian-Ukrainian agreement to extend the service life of RS-20 (SS-18 Satan) intercontinental ballistic missiles. The lower and upper houses of parliament passed the draft law on the missile on January 25 and January 30 respectively. The agreement was coordinated during a visit by the Ukrainian defense minister to Moscow in 2006 and established that Ukraine would assist Russia in maintaining systems that have been on combat duty for the past 15 years for a further 10-15 years. With this agreement in force, Russia will not need to decommission the existing missiles and manufacture more new Topol-M systems, which would increase the defense budget by $3-4 billion.

Satan, which can carry 10 independently targeted nuclear charges, was designed at the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau in Dnepropetrovsk, in the south of central Ukraine. Under the 1992 Lisbon agreement between Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and the United States, Ukraine may not produce such missiles or have other types of strategic weapons. The Dnepropetrovsk plant, where the Voevoda was made in Soviet times, now produces trolleybuses, but its missile designers still provide routine maintenance to and repair Satans, when and if necessary, under the agreement prolonged by the Russian parliament. Russia has only 75 such missiles now, but they form the core of its strategic deterrence force.

Deployment Sites

START Locale US-Designation
Aleysk in Altai (30) Aleysk
Derzhavinsk near Akmolinsk (52) Imeni Gastello
Dombarovsky-3 near Orenbourg (64) Dombarovskiy
Kartaly-6 near Chelyabinsk (46) Kartaly
Uzhur-4 near Krasnoyarsk (64) Uzhur
Zhangiz-Tobe near Seminpalatinsk (52) Zhangiz Tobe



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