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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

R-39M / Grom [Bark] / RSM-52V / SS-N-28

Russia regarded the maintenance of its strategic nuclear capacity, which represents the base of its policy of deterrence as a top priority. With this in mind (along with the need to replace obsolete and treaty-restricted systems), the Russian government authorized the modernization of it's strategic nuclear systems and hardware. This modernization envisaged the development of the SS-27 missile as a successor of the SS-25, the development of the new SS-N-28 to be deployed on submarines, and the construction of a fourth generation of strategic missile submarines. Russia maintains a force of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines equipped with intercontinental range missiles. Although the number of Russian SSBNs has dropped considerably, Russia planned to modernize its force with the addition of the new SS-NX-28 and new Borei Class ballistic missile submarines.

At the end of the 1980s work on an improved version of the R-39 missile began. The improved R-39 was intended to be deployed on Typhoon submarines and new "Yurin Dolgorukiy" SSBNs. Work on the new missile lagged seriously behind the initial timetable. Flight testing began in 1996 and the first launches terminated in failures.

The new Grom SS-N-28 was designed to provide improved accuracy compared to the previous SS-N-20, but is otherwise apparently a straightforward development of this system. The SS-NX-28, unlike previous Russian SLBMs, is the first to be totally developed and manufactured within Russia's borders by the Makeyev Machine-Building Design Bureau. The test launch of a prototype SS-NX-28 (RSM-52V) SLBM on 19 November 1998 resulted in a catastrophic failure of the SLBM's booster. The missile exploded roughly 200 meters after take-off from its ground based launch station. The SS-NX-28 then proceeded to fail its next two test firings, after which the project was abandoned.

As of early 1999 it appeared that construction had ceased on the first unit of the Borei-class, pending a redesign of the ship to accommodate a different missile from the SS-N-28 for which the class was originally designed to carry.

The Typhoon submarines were initially intended to be retrofitted to carry the SS-N-28 missile. The lead unit of this class, the TK-208, had been in overhaul since 1992 with the intent of receiving these modifications. The Typhoon class submarines are slated to be withdrawn from service within a few years, and it is unlikely that other units of the class would be modified to accommodate new missiles.

In January 2000 Rear-Admiral Vladimir Makeev, the head of the Northern Fleet's rocket test site at Nenoksa, Arkhangelsk County, stated that a Typhoon submarine would be used to test the new Bark-class strategic missiles. Makeev also stated that Bark-class missiles were to be installed on the forth generation Borey-class submarines.

The SS-N-28 Bark was already in the test stage when the Navy refused from the missile in favor of the new designer, the Moscow Teplotechnika Institute. The institute was engaged in the ground-based Topol missiles and actively lobbied by the Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.

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