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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

17 December Is Strategic Missile Troops Day:
"Guarantor of Peace and Stability"

Moscow Armeyskiy Sbornik, Dec 96 No 12, pp 10-17
[Exclusive interview with General of the Army Igor Dmitriyevich Sergeyev, CINC Strategic Missile Troops [SMT], by SMT Press Center Chief Lieutenant Colonel Ilshat Baychurin, date, place and occasion not specified, under rubric "]

Igor Dmitriyevich Sergeyev was born in the city of Verkhniy, Voroshilovgrad Oblast on 20 April 1938. He is among the first missilemen. He completed Black Sea Higher Naval School imeni P. S. Nakhimov in the "Rocket Weapons" specialty. He continued his further military biography in missile units along with thousands of navymen, artillerymen and pilots in the period of establishment of the Strategic Missile Troops, which were being formed based on all branches of the country's Armed Forces. He soon completed the command faculty of the Military Engineering Academy imeni F. E. Dzerzhinskiy with honors, then served in various engineering, command and staff positions in the most diverse corners of the country.

Then came studies at the General Staff Military Academy and service in the positions of chief of staff of a large strategic formation, chief of SMT Main Staff Operations Directorate, first deputy chief of SMT Main Staff, and deputy CINC SMT for combat training. General of the Army I. D. Sergeyev was appointed CINC SMT on 26 August 1992.

[AS] Igor Dmitriyevich, how do the most powerful (which people often call them) Strategic Missile Troops look today structurally? Has the reorganization going on in the Armed Forces in connection with military reform applied to them?

[Sergeyev] I believe the epithet "most" as applied to the SMT is fully acceptable. Thanks to the personnel's selflessness, the Strategic Missile Troops today in fact remain the most powerful branch of the Armed Forces. Judge for yourself: two-thirds of the state's nuclear potential is accounted for specifically by the Missile Troops. The Strategic Missile Troops are capable of performing from 50 to 90 percent of strategic missions independently. But few know that despite such an enormous volume of missions, the Missile Troops are the smallest and comprise only 10 percent of Russian Armed Forces overall numerical strength.

Around 112,000 missilemen are at duty stations each day. Even now, in these very minutes, they are at the consoles of strategic nuclear missiles. Basically these are young people. It is not without reason that the Strategic Missile Troops themselves are the youngest branch of the country's Armed Forces. This year they will be 37 years old, a little over the average age of the missile officers entrusted with performing alert duty.

The epithet "most" also fits the Missile Troops in many other respects as well. But the most important thing for politicians and economists as well as ordinary citizens to learn will be that the Strategic Missile Troops are the most inexpensive troops for the state. Strategic missilemen use only 5-6 percent of the entire defense budget.

Structurally there are two combat arms, figuratively speaking, in the SMT. The first is armed with fixed-basing complexes. These are the separate launch facilities (OS) dispersed on the territory of a position area at a distance precluding destruction of two launchers by one nuclear warhead. They make up around 60 percent of the grouping. Separate launch facilities have a high degree of protection. Each launcher has its own receiving equipment. Even if command and control facilities are knocked out, launchers are capable of receiving and executing orders.

The second arm consists of the mobile troops, made up of launchers based on ground chassis and rail flatcars. These are self-contained launchers such as Topol with the RS 12-M missile and rail combat missile complexes (BZhRK) with the missile the West calls "Scalpel."

The fixed troops are intended for launch-on-warning [otvetno-vstrechnyy udar]. By the way, not one other component of Russia's nuclear triad has this property. The mobile troops serve for retaliatory actions. These are deterrence weapons.

The Strategic Missile Troops are being reorganized in accordance with the concept worked out for development of the Missile Troops with consideration of agreements Russia concluded on limiting and reducing strategic offensive arms. The fulfillment of reorganization plans is being held up substantially by extremely insufficient and irregular financing.

[AS] The leading role of the SMT in ensuring strategic stability at the present time is indisputable. Can it change in the future with radical reductions under the START II Treaty?

[Sergeyev] At present the SMT grouping is the main component of Russia's strategic nuclear forces thanks to its determining role in the structure of the strategic nuclear forces and its contribution to combat effectiveness. The proportion of its delivery vehicles and weapons is approximately 60 percent, but under certain conditions it performs up to 90 percent of all missions of the strategic nuclear forces.

It is the might of the Strategic Missile Troops and their capability of performing nuclear deterrence missions that guarantee strategic stability in the world by cooling the hot heads of those who assume that Russia no longer is capable of defending itself.

The development of the SMT grouping in the next 10-15 years will be determined both by the state of the country's economy and of existing cooperation of industry as well as by limitations of the START I Treaty and of the START II Treaty, should it be ratified by Russia's Federal Assembly. In addition, such factors as the grouping's structure which has formed and the status of the infrastructure supporting its functioning will affect development.

The Missile Troops have accumulated a significant S & T backlog ensuring the possibility, in the presence of appropriate financing, of further upgrading an armament system capable of keeping combat potential at the requisite level in the presence of significant quantitative reductions in the grouping.

Even after START II Treaty implementation and despite the decline in the proportion of their weapons in the strategic nuclear forces, the Missile Troops will keep their contribution to the strategic nuclear forces' combat potential at today's level because of the unique properties of the nuclear missile weapons which they have and the sensible structural reorganization of the grouping (an increased proportion of highly survivable mobile missile complexes in its makeup).

[AS] What are the prospects for development of the Missile Troops and of missile equipment and armament for the next few years? Are there difficulties here, for some plants manufacturing equipment and weapons remained on the territories of other CIS states?

[Sergeyev] The task of shaping prospects for development of the Missile Troops is not an end in itself. It is the result and the objective and adequate reaction to the military-strategic situation taking shape in the world and is aimed at ensuring the security of Russia and its allies. Thus, in the final account everything depends on how and where the development of mutual relations will go among states of the world community, above all those possessing or capable of possessing nuclear weapons.

There naturally are difficulties in the production and operation of armament caused by the fact that a number of enterprises ended up in other states, but they are surmountable and much already has been done in this area. A state such as Russia is capable of making up for lost production capacities from its own means and resources, including also high-tech capacities. In addition, we continue to work together and on the whole successfully and on mutually advantageous terms to ensure operating safety of missile weapons with enterprises of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan as well as enterprises of other states formed after the Soviet Union's disintegration.

It requires no proof that nuclear safety of operation of missile complexes must prevail over political, economic, national and other interstate contradictions. The Chernobyl tragedy, consequences of which inflicted colossal damage not only on Ukraine, but also on Belarus, Russia as well as other states of Europe, showed how dangerous even the "peaceful atom" is if one treats it carelessly or, as the people say, on familiar terms. Therefore states which were tied together to one degree or another in creating the USSR's nuclear missile potential have to realize that not only consequences of employment, but also disasters involving nuclear weapons are supranational in nature.

[AS] How is upgrading of the SMT grouping going today? Does meager financing reflect on this?

[Sergeyev] Despite unsatisfactory financing, we managed to continue the process of reorganizing the grouping and to keep combat readiness and controllability of troops at the requisite level. The stage of flight-design tests of the modernized Topol-M missile complex was concluded successfully, which permits looking into the future with optimism. The unique Russian Topol-M solid-propellant three- stage strategic missile is advantageous not only for the SMT; under present conditions it is also advantageous to domestic taxpayers, since its production and operation will require considerably fewer outlays than for missiles of the preceding generation. Moreover, it is absolutely safe in the ecologic sense and it fully conforms in specifications and performance characteristics as well to all restrictive parameters of Russian-American treaties on strategic offensive arms reduction.

[AS] What are the Topol and Topol-M missile complexes?

[Sergeyev] The Topol RS-12M (SS-25) mobile missile complex is considered one of the most successful and unique results of creative thought of our designers and scientists. Topol has been on alert status since 1985. This missile complex and its modernized version, Topol-M, will make up the nucleus of the future SMT grouping. Its development is not limited either by the START I or START II Treaty. It is envisaged that the modernized Topol-M will be accommodated both on self-propelled launchers as well as in silos.

I would like to say a few words about the high survivability of the Topol mobile missile complex. It has the capability of moving off roads, changing location continuously and launching a missile from any point on the movement route. It is impossible for present as well as future means of technical reconnaissance to pinpoint its precise location. According to estimates of foreign specialists, destroying one Topol launcher will require expending around 10 nuclear weapons to create the necessary lethal area, which is disadvantageous from a military aspect.

The following fact eloquently indicates the reliability of our self-propelled launchers and level of preparedness of SMT specialists. During elimination of Pioner missiles (predecessors of Topol) in 1988 by the launch method under the INF Treaty--under the immediate control of U.S. inspection teams, by the way--the missilemen made 72 missile launches. Three missiles "hit" the target for a grade of "good" and all the rest with a grade of "outstanding."

[AS] But the fact is that the United States does not plan to create new ICBM's. Why are we doing this with the reductions of strategic nuclear arms and the country's serious situation?

[Sergeyev] Permit me to disagree with the popular opinion that the United States is doing nothing with respect to creating new ICBM's. It is constantly modernizing the Minuteman and M-X missile systems in its inventory. And we are doing the very same. At present around half of the missiles in the SMT are being operated outside warranty period limits. This number will increase by the end of 1997. Therefore we are forced to modernize missile weapons to preserve the requisite combat potential of the grouping, and this is being done under a resource-conserving technology and with minimum outlays. We rejected any redundancy long ago. The only missile complex, Topol, is being modernized; moreover, this is being done exclusively through efforts only of Russian enterprises.

It is impossible to preserve the nuclear shield without modernizing nuclear missile weapons, and strategic missilemen are doing everything to see that this shield protects Russia reliably.

[AS] Igor Dmitriyevich, I would like to learn your opinion concerning the Russian Presidential Edict "On the Transition to Filling Private and NCO Positions of the Armed Forces and other Russian Federation Troops on a Professional Basis."

[Sergeyev] Without any doubt, the Army has to be professional. Therefore I welcome the Presidential Edict, but there is no question that its fulfillment depends on one important condition--troops must receive the funds necessary for its successful implementation. It is also necessary for an atmosphere of good will toward the Army and toward the country's defender to be created in society as well. If our profession is elevated to the rank of the most honored and prestigious, I am sure that society's best representatives will go serve in the Armed Forces.

By the way, if we cast off conditionalities, then the Strategic Missile Troops essentially already were manned on a professional basis long ago, for the missile officer is that same contract person and professional. He gives 25-30 years to service after completing school. Moreover, all important missions connected with alert duty in our troops have been and are being performed basically by officers. So I think we strategic missilemen will succeed in transferring all Missile Troops to manning on a professional basis (I repeat, in the presence of necessary funds) in a rather short time.

[AS] What are the most acute problems in the SMT today?

[Sergeyev] First and foremost is the insufficient quantitative and qualitative manning of the troops. As of today we especially feel the shortage of junior officers and of specialists of educational structures, although it cannot be forgotten that the Strategic Missile Troops are permanent combat readiness troops which perform a combat mission even in peacetime--they perform alert duty for protecting the homeland. But one has to note that under conditions of a personnel shortage, combat readiness of the troops is maintained at the proper level through increased loads on personnel. As a result, 13-14 days of alert duty per month fall on the missilemen at times. This of course is not the best solution to the situation.

We also encountered serious problems connected with routine servicing, maintenance and repair of armament. The capabilities of industrial cooperation, which included Ukraine and Belarus above all in addition to Russia, considerably narrowed (if not to say that this cooperation entirely ceased to exist after the USSR's disintegration). As a result we approached the critical line of above-norm use of unit-level supplies of spare parts, instruments, accessories and other materiel. The necessary replenishment of these supplies is absent.

The sharp reduction in POL deliveries considerably reduced our capabilities for conducting full-fledged combat training. Yes, we are taking compensatory steps and are making wider use of simulators and the field training facility, but we are incapable of fully "parrying" the fuel shortage.

Problems unquestionably also exist with financing. We are not only chronic debtors for electrical power and other public utilities, but we cannot settle with supplier plants and construction organizations. There is up to two months delay in pay for servicemen and wages for civilian personnel. These circumstances extremely complicate the resolution of social problems, procurements of armament and military equipment, and assurance of nuclear safety of missile complexes.

We are not demanding the impossible. Let them give us at least what is allocated under the defense budget, but even this is absent. This year they have not yet given us a ruble for upkeep of troops, except insignificant funds for pay (at the level of 30 percent of authorized). I enumerated only the most acute problems which trouble the Missile Troops today, but I will repeat once more that despite all difficulties, the SMT preserved rigid centralization of battle management of troops and weapons and an adjusted system of alert duty. And this permits constantly monitoring the technical state of nuclear missile weapons, ensuring reliable security and defense, and being ready on the whole to perform combat missions.

[AS] Have the number of exercises and training launches in the SMT decreased in connection with the country's economic and financial difficulties?

[Sergeyev] First I should stipulate that the Strategic Missile Troops are specific in many matters, including combat training. We perform alert duty continually, and this is not training or an exercise, it is the performance of a combat mission. It is done by personnel professionally trained to perform this responsible mission of ensuring Russia's security.

Without question, we also conduct tactical drills and exercises envisaged by combat training plans.

An ICBM launch is not a round fired from a tank or BMP. This is a very expensive "pleasure." Such launches were infrequent even earlier. Today, under conditions of a financial deficit, we execute launches basically of those missiles whose warranty periods of operation have come to an end. We kill two birds with one stone, as they say: we improve missilemen's proficiency and simultaneously perform the task of checking the missiles' reliability, which permits us to extend their operating periods.

If we take tactical drills and exercises, they now are conducted more rarely and with lesser involvement of equipment. Instead we make more use of simulators and specially equipped training classrooms and field training centers that permit compensating for limitations in the personnel's proficiency under existing conditions, when limits of POL and other materiel have been reduced. With respect to the system of training officers of alert-duty sections for alert duty, it has remained (and I emphasize that it will be kept) fundamentally unchanged, although of course one has to take into account circumstances caused by insufficient financing. Nevertheless, strategic missilemen are doing everything possible to see that the quality of alert duty does not decline, because for us alert duty is the essence of the purpose of the SMT, a sacred job.

[AS] In contrast to any other weapons, nuclear weapons represent increased danger. How is their high level of safety ensured in the SMT and to what can an underestimation in this matter and insufficient financing of troops lead?

[Sergeyev] It is clear that money is needed for any security, especially nuclear security. Nuclear security has been provided and is being provided today in the Missile Troops by the entire integral sum of organizational and technical measures and activities, beginning with development of the weapons and ending with their operation. Since December 1994 the Strategic Missile Troops have been working to recycle nuclear missile weapons within the framework of the START I Treaty. Missile specialists are performing a large amount of work of increased danger connected with transporting missile fuel components, unmating reentry vehicles, and transporting warheads and missiles. It is natural that the degree of risk also rose with the increased volume of work. To parry this, the Strategic Missile Troops have worked out and, as I already said, are implementing both organizational and technical measures, which as of today reliably ensure nuclear safety in dismantling and recycling nuclear missile weapons. By the way, in the entire history of the Missile Troops there have been no accidents connected with violation of nuclear safety, and we are proud of this. Experience has shown that the safety system is reliably adjusted, but naturally there may be some kind of limit. It is necessary to constantly maintain the proper condition of roads, security systems and technical signaling systems of installations, which already have been on alert duty for 20 or more years. They have to be constantly reanimated, upgraded and replaced. Money is insufficient for this now. Therefore additional organizational steps are being taken which compensate for the aging of these systems. This is done above all through efforts of our officers and warrant officers. I will not tell you the fine points of this job. These are strictly specific steps, but believe me, they are reliable.

[AS] Nevertheless, Igor Dmitriyevich, what is the status of the SMT today? Considering difficulties with financing and support of troops, are the Strategic Missile Troops capable of performing the missions for which intended?

[Sergeyev] As shown by results of the concluding year, there is not one unit in the SMT evaluated as "unsatisfactory." Most important, end-of-training-period performance evaluations confirmed the high professional expertise of alert-duty sections of combat launch teams and their capability of performing standing missions with quality.

And here is what is noteworthy. Neither financial nor other difficulties are damping the missilemen's ardor. To the contrary, I see each one striving to find a way out of any difficult situation and perform assigned missions in the best manner. For example, a problem arose for us of how to preserve stable work of alert-duty sections of combat launch teams when officers began to be selected for them from the reserve (not because of good living, of course). A system of training and refresher training of reservists was worked out on the spot and results were not slow in telling.

The system of training officers of alert-duty sections for alert duty basically remained unchanged (and, I emphasize, it will be preserved), although of course one has to take into account the circumstances caused by insufficient financing. Nevertheless, strategic missilemen are doing everything possible for the quality of alert duty to be maintained at the proper level.

[AS] Igor Dmitriyevich, the 37th anniversary of formation of our branch of the Armed Forces is celebrated on 17 December, and SMT Day will be celebrated for the second time on that same day. But insofar as I know, the point of reference of SMT history was enormously earlier.

[Sergeyev] Quite true. The special-purpose brigade of the Supreme High Command Reserve is our point of reference. By the way, this summer the missilemen celebrated the semicentennial of the day the special-purpose brigade of the RVGK [Supreme High Command Reserve] was formed. So specifically this brigade marked the beginning of tests and mastery of several generations of domestic missiles and worked out the principles of combat employment of missile units and formations, thereby laying the foundation for forming the most powerful branch of the country's Armed Forces, the Strategic Missile Troops.

Major General Aleksandr Fedorovich Tveretskiy, a living legend, was the first commander of the RVGK special-purpose brigade. The history of his unit also was legendary. Honorary designations and combat awards of 92nd Guards Mortar Regiment, which struck the enemy in the Great Patriotic War with the renowned Katyushas, were transferred to it by succession.

On 18 October 1947, just a year after the brigade's formation, the missilemen opened the era of creation of many types of long-range missiles with the first launch of the A- 4 guided ballistic missile from the Kapustin Yar Range. Later there were tests of the R-1, R-2 and many other missiles.

Later the brigade was given the combined-arms designation of 22nd RVGK special-purpose brigade, then 72nd RVGK Engineer Brigade, and in 1960 the 24th Guards Division of the SMT was formed on its basis. Division personnel vigilantly stood alert duty for 30 years. Over 150 test and training launches of missiles were conducted on the whole in the 50-year history of this brigade and then of the division.

[AS] Comrade Commander in Chief, what would you like to wish missilemen on the SMT Day holiday?

[Sergeyev] Addressing all SMT personnel, members of missilemen's families, those near and dear to them, all veterans of the Missile Troops, scientists, engineers and technicians of the defense industry, and civilian personnel, who are performing the most diverse missions in support of the SMT, I wish to sincerely congratulate everyone on the holiday. It is thanks to your conscientious, selfless performance of your military and patriotic duty that from year to year the Strategic Missile Troops have worthily performed difficult missions of strengthening the country's defense capability and reliably ensuring Russia's security with guaranteed fulfillment of nuclear safety measures. Dear friends, I express deep gratitude to you all for military labor for the good of the homeland and wish you firm health, prosperity, great personal happiness and new successes in life.


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