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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


R-29 / SS-N-8 SAWFLY

The R-29 SS-N-8 was the first Soviet sea-based ICBM. The ballistic missile R-29 of launch complex D-9 was intended for the defeat of strategic targets at the intercontinental ranges. It was accepted for the armament the Navy in 1974. It was placed on the nuclear-powered submarines of Project 667B with the fire unit of 12 rockets and 667BD with the fire unit of 16 rockets. Deployed on the Delta-class submarines beginning in 1973, the missile's long range allowed submarine alert patrols in the marginal ice seas of the Soviet arctic littoral, including the Norwegian and Barents seas. Consequently, Soviet submarines no longer needed to pass through Western SOSUS sonar barriers to come within range their targets. And deployed close to home, they could be protected in "bastions" by the rest of the Soviet Navy.

The R-29 is a two-stage missile storable liquid-propellant, without an interstage section, carrying a single warhead. The missile had an aluminum magnesium alloy body with integrated fuel tanks. The first stage sustainer and the second stage propulsion system are located inside the fuel tanks, thus reducing the external dimensions of the missile. The conical blunt shaped re-entry vehicle was also located in the second stage fuel tank, oriented opposite to the flight direction. The guidance section is located in the conical area of the compartment where the warhead is usually placed. The propulsion systems of both stages consist of a single-chamber main rocket engine, and dual-chamber control engines with moveable chambers. The R-29 was the first Soviet SLBM to use a digital computer and an azimuthal stellar monitoring system for improved high accuracy and in-flight course correction.

With a launching weight of 33.3 tons the R-29 missile was capable of delivering a 1,100 kg reentry vehicle to a maximum range of 7800 km, three times greater than the R-27 missile. Thus its patrolling zones were substantially enlarged. According to Western estimates in the 1970s, the SS-N-8 was capable of delivering a 1400-lb reentry vehicle with a 0.6-1.5 MT warhead a distance of 4200 nm with a CEP of approximately 0.5 nm.

The R-29 was equipped with ballistic missile defense countermeasures. Decoys were carried in a cylindrical container in the fuel tank of the second stage, and released during nose cone separation.

The guarantee of high combat and operating characteristics of rocket with the maximum reduction of mass-and-size characteristics is achieved by the adoption of a number of fundamentally new assembly and constructive solutions by the rocket, the engine installations, onboard system for control, complex of the ship systems for control of rocket weapon and launcher, and also by the automation of prelaunch servicing procedure, start and complex regular inspections of all rockets on the boat.

Basic from these solutions:

  • rocket is executed according to two-step diagram, in one diameter, with the tandem staging, fuel tanks - carrying with the combined separating bottoms;
  • the high density of the layout of the stages of rocket was ensured due to the arrangement of the engines of the I and II steps directly in the fuel tanks, the upper bottom of the fuel tank of the second step is executed in the form the cone, in which was placed "inverted" in the direction of flight combat block;
  • the absence of interstage and intertank sections;
  • the execution of all-welded missile body with the complete hermetic sealing of the aggregates of engine installations, [ampulizatsiya] of tanks after their servicing at the manufacturing plant;
  • the application of an azimuthal celestial correction of rocket flight on the navigation stars and the sun;
  • the use of an onboard digital computer complex in the composition of control system;
  • the front arrangement of instrument compartment in the head part of the rocket, the ensuring sighting of stars and the replacement of instrument compartment and head part without unloading of rocket from the mine of submarine;
  • the creation of launcher with the resin-metal shock absorbers, placed on the walls of rocket mine, which ensured their repeated use and increased the operating characteristics of complex;
  • the application of an autonomous ship digital computing system in the ship system for control of rocket weapon;
  • the guarantee of a start from the underwater and above-water positions of boat.

Control system with the azimuthal celestial correction did not have domestic and foreign analogs and it was used on the ballistic missile for the first time in the world. Celestial correction ensured even with the significant errors of navigation complex in the determination of the course of submarine high accuracy with the shooting to the intercontinental range.

The engine installation of first stage includes basic and steering blocks. Control devices appear two steering cameras, placed in the gimbal suspensions. The engine installation of the second step consists of the single-chamber engine, placed in the gimbal suspension. The stage separation of rocket is accomplished after the break of its housing by the annular elongated detonating charge due to the energy of gases of supercharging.

The application of an autonomous computing system in the ship system for control of weapon, the use of digital computers on the rocket in combination with the system of celestial correction, high degree of the automation of the processes of prelaunch servicing procedure and missile takeoff, control of them from the united panel ensured the high combat readiness of missile complex, shortening the time of prelaunch servicing procedure and launching entire fire unit of rockets in one volley.

The combat employment of rockets from the underwater position of submarine is ensured during wave action of the sea to 8 marks, i.e., is in practice achieved the all-weather suitability of combat employment. Missile takeoff from the above-water position and intercontinental range of shooting provide the possibility of the launches of rockets directly from the points of the basing of submarines.

Preliminary design work was conducted in 1963, by the SKB-385 design bureau which was also in charge of carrying out the entire project after the Soviet Defense Ministry discarded the competing proposals made by OKB-52 and its chief designer V.N. Chyelomyey. The development of the D9 launch system with R-29 missiles was approved on 28 September 1964.

The initial tests of the R-29 missile and the D-9 launch system took place with the Black Sea fleet. They consisted of launching full-scale missile dummies with a first stage propulsion system and a simplified command system. Further testing was conducted from March 1969 until December 1971 at the State Central Marine Test Site in Nenoksa. A total of 20 flight demonstration launches were conducted from a ground platform. The final test phase consisted of a series of submarine launches from Delta I submarines. The first submarine launch was on 15 December 1971 in the White Sea. Further tests took place from August through November 1972, during which 18 out of 19 launches were successfully conducted.

The R-29 missiles and the D-9 launch system were made operational on March 12, 1974 and they were deployed on 18 Delta I submarines. The Delta Class nuclear submarine can launch missiles in ~7-second intervals while fully submerged. Normal reaction time is 15 minutes; reaction time under conditions of peak alert is about one minute. The allowable hold time under peak alert conditions is one hour. The missiles could either be fired underwater or while the submarine was moored at their bases.

Further improvements lead to an increase in range up to 9100 km. The modernized launch system designated as D-9D was made operational in 1978. It was initially deployed on four Delta II submarines, which carry 16 R-29D missiles instead of 12 R-29 missiles. Subsequently, the Delta I submarines were also outfitted with R-29D missiles.


Historical Review - Western Estimates
First land-based launch from Nenoksa Naval Missile Test Center detected June 21, 1969
Hotel III submarine used as test bed for SS-N-8 SLBM 1970
First sea launch December 25, 1971
Estimated start of integrated system test Mid-1972
First detection of 12-missile tube Delta Class SSBN August 1972
Two SS-N-8 missiles launched simultaneously November 28, 1972
Four SS-N-8 missiles launched within a 30-second interval December 14, 1972
Initial operational capability reached Mid-1973



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