Find a Security Clearance Job!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Design deficiencies of early Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles in the late 1950s arms race with the USA led the Soviet leadership to initiate the development of a new type of missile, designated the R-16. Unlike Korolev designs, Yangel designed R-16/SS-7 ICBM was a storable liquid-propellant, tandem missile designed to deliver a single 3500 lb reentry vehicle with an operational range of 7000 nm, or a 4200 lb reentry vehicle within 6000 nm. The SS-7 was 35 meters long and 3.5 meters in diameter. It was guided by autonomous inertial navigation unit with a CEP estimated at 1.0-1.25 nm.

The intercontinental two-stage liquid ballistic missile R-16 was the first Soviet composite two-stage missile executed in a tandem scheme (sequential arrangement of steps). Her tests were conducted from October 1960 until the end of 1961. In 1961, the first missile regiment with R-16 ICBMs was put on duty, and the missile system was adopted. The R-16 intercontinental missile was created rather quickly (Resolution of the Council of Ministers of the USSR "On the development of the complex" of December 17, 1957) due to the extensive use of technologies developed in the development of medium-range ballistic missiles R-12 and R-14.

Described as an R-12 strapped upon a R-14, the propulsion system of the two stage R-16 consisted of:

First stage--three motors with two combustion chambers (similar to those used on the R-14 missile) and a four-chamber control engine. The control engine's pivoted combustion chambers were placed on an external surface under fairings, which doubled as aerodynamic stabilizers.

Second stag--a two combustion chamber engine that had a larger nozzle than the first stage and a four-chamber control engine. It has dedicated retrorockets, used to separate the sustainer stages and the warhead. As previously stated, it relied on a novel and more reliable autonomous guidance control system that was protected from radio-jamming specifically designed for the rocket.

Three versions of the R-16 missile were developed with varying warhead amounts, yields, and overall ranges. There were four variants of the reentry vehicle detected by Western intelligence during the R&D program. Only 2 of the versions were heavily deployed by the Soviets, the R-16-2 (believed to have a ballistic coefficient of 700 lb per sq ft; a yield of 2.0 to 3.5 MT) and the R-16-3 (believed to have a ballistic coefficient equals 850 lb per sq ft and a yield of3.0 to 5.0 MT).

Following the accident, flight tests resumed on 02 February 1961. The SS-7's first successful flight test occurred in April 1961. By late 1961 the surface launched first R-16 missile regiment was put on alert in the Soviet Desna-N launch facility, though the system was not believed by Western intelligence to be operational until January 1962..

In May 1960 the R-16U variant was development and construction began on its corresponding silo launch complex "Desna-V". The R-16U was to become the first silo launched ICBM but it also had a surface-launch capability. The launch complex consisted of three silos located in a straight line 60 meters away from each other, along with four underground command centers and fuel depots. The silo launchers had a depth of 45.6 m, a diameter of 8.3 m and a door diameter of 4.64 m.

The flight tests of the ground launched R-16U were conducted from October 1961 through February of the following year. The first surface-launched missile firing was conducted in July1962, and the R-16Uwas first deployed on 15 June 1963. The flight tests of the silo launched version began in January 1962 and became operational on July 1963 (simultaneously with the R-12U and R-14U missiles). The first three ground based R-16 regiments were put on alert in November 1961, while the first regiment with silo based P-16U missiles was put on alert on 05 February 1963.

The system was deployed in both soft and hard sites. Between 1961 and 1965 a total of 186 mostly sufrace-based R-16 and R-16U were deployed. The SS-7 reaction time in the normal readiness condition is one to three hours for soft sites and five to fifteen minutes for hard sites. The allowable hold time in the highest alert condition (reaction time equals three to five minutes) was many hours for soft sites and days for hard sites. The r-16 reached its maximum operational number in1965 with some phase-out of both soft and hard sites occurring in 1971. Both missiles were completely phased out in 1976.

Deployment Sites

START   Locale US-Designation
Bershet=   Perm
Drovyanaya   Drovyanaya
Kostroma   Kostroma
Kozel=sk   Kozelsk
Krasnoyarsk   Gladkaya
Nizhniy Tagil   Verknnyaya Salda
Svobodny   Svobodny
Teykovo   Teykovo
Vypolzovo   Yedrovo
Yasnaya   Olovyannaya
Yoshkar Ola   Yoshkar Ola
Yur=ya   Yurya

  1. The R-16U is almost identical to the R-16b ballistic missile except for its basing mode. It was deployed on above ground soft sites as well as in silos.
  2. This was the above ground soft site deployment date for the R-16U. The silo based version of the R-16U was deployed one month later.

Join the mailing list