UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

5230'N 8245'E

In the mid-1990s the potential impact from a fissured society and a disgruntled military raised concerns that the Russian government, weakened as it was, no longer effectively controled its territory and its people. In one incident, an enlisted man at this ICBM base in the Altai region went berserk in March 1994, killing two soldiers and seriously wounding another two. The local Strategic Rocket Forces commander initially tried tocover up the incident, but it leaked to the regional and then the national press.

As of 31 July 2001 there were 16 deployed SS-18s at Alyesk, but all had been withdrawn over the following year.

By 1981 two programs to upgrade the SS-18 missile system were underway at the six deployed SS-18 complexes (Figure 1). One program modifies the 19 oldest SS-18 launch groups to accept the SS-18 MOD-4 (and probably any SS-18 payload deployed in the near future) and increase silo hardness. The second program retrofitted the SS-18 MOD-4 payload to the missiles at nine launch groups which were completed and loaded during 1978 before the SS-18 MOD-4 was deployed. These nine launch groups utilized the same structurally modified silo components' as the 20 SS-18 launch groups where the SS-18MOD-4 was deployed in 1979 and 1980. These groups underwent three-year major periodic maintenance (PM) in 1981. Retrofit of the SS-18 MOD-4 payload was incorporated into this PM cycle (retro-fit/PM) and took three months per launch group. The SS-18 payload retrofit program would be completed in 1981.

Retrofit without silo modification was possible because these nine launch groups utilized the same structurally modified silo components as the 20 launch groups completed in 1979 and 1980 where the SS-18 MOD-4 was initially deployed. Activity at the Aleysk complex support facilities and Aleysk Launch Group C indicated that retrofit of MOD-4 payloads was incorporated into the SS-18 three-year major PM cycle (retrofit/PM) for the nine launch groups. Retrofitting a launch groupwith the SS-18 MOD-4 payload probably took three to four months.

Retrofit Support Activity CAN/CAP trains arrived with new SS-18 upper canister sections, MOD-4 associatedcontainers, and three SS-18 MOD-4-associated crates but without SS-18 lower missile canister sections. Two of the MOD-4-associated crates were transported on a railcar which usually carried the lower missile canister section. The third MOD-4-associated crate was transported on the same railcar as the MOD-4-associated container.

This was a radical departure from normal procedure and was the first indication that only the payloads deployed in Launch Group C would be exchanged/retro-fitted. MOD-4-associated containers were used to transport a component of the post-boost vehicle (PBV), probably the MOD-4 propulsion/guidance control structure (PGCS). The upper canister sections were taken to the SS-18 special support building for inspection and temporary storage. The PGCS was unloaded from its container, inspected in a corner bay of the special support building, and stored in the PBV building until taken to thefor trial mating with the reentry vehicle support structure (RVSS).

Nuclear-associated railcars deliver MOD-4 warheads to the RTP and probably transported the warheads removed from the launch group undergoing payload retrofit to a national-level nuclear storage site. The the MOD-4 warheads were removed from their shipping canisters, inspected, and then mated to the RVSS. After trial mating with the PGCS, the RVSS (with warheads) was separated from the PGCS and transported to a launch site by the type V warhead transporter. The PGCS was then fueled in the propellant facility and transported to a launch site by the SS-18 payload-associated transporter (PAT). The SS-18 PAT was only associated with the MOD-4 payload.

Launch Group Retrofit Launch Site Activity began simultaneously at the LCF, the collocated launch site (Figure 9), and one additional site with the arrival of the PM/silo loading vehicles and house trailers. At the two launch sites, activity began with the removal of the horizontal damper fixture, the topmost component of the SS-18 in-silo suspension/shock isolation system. The SS-18 upper canister section and the original payload (SS-18 MOD-1, -2, or -3) was then removed and probably transported to the complex RTP for shipment out of the complex. The horizontal damper fixture and upper canister section were normally removed during PM to access the SS-18 payload.

Normal PM and probable minor upper silo modifications to accommodate the MOD-4 payload are then accomplished. The arrival of SS-18 MOD-4-associated crates at the launch site confirms that MOD-4 retrofit was underway. The contents of the crates and their function within the silo had not been determined. After PM and the minor MOD-4-associated silo modifications were complete, the PGCS was mated to the second stage of the SS-18 booster. After the MOD-4 payload was mated to the PGCS, a new upper canister section was attached to the lowermissile canister section and an SS-18 umbilical framework was lowered over the SS-18 canister. This framework is a checkout device used to insure proper missile-to-silo alignment. Once proper alignment was achieved, the umbilical framework was removed and the horizontal damper fixture was reinstalled. After the silo door was closed, final checkout and site cleanup took place. The launch site was now ready to return to online alert status.

At Aleysk ICBM Launch Sites 15C and 18C retrofit took 25 to 30 days per site. Retrofit of a launch group (six sites per group) took three to four months. Normal PM lasted seven to ten days per site and four to six weeks per six-site launch group. During retrofit, a majority of the PM vehicles remained onsite and site support was provided by a TSA consisting of six to eight net-covered house trailers.

Launch Control Facility MOD-4 retrofit/PM activity was supported by the LCF PM support vehicles and equipment, which included five to eight house trailers, eight to ten vehicles, and two to four stacks of canvas-covered materials/ equipment. Retractable antennas in the silo headworks were raised on numerous occasions, probably in support of launch site to LCF command and control communications checks. The only discernible difference between normal PM and retrofit/PM was the duration of activity. Normal PM lasted four to six weeks, while retrofit/PM lasted 12 to 16 weeks because of the increased length of time required for launch site payload retrofit.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 25-08-2021 17:17:26 ZULU