UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

R-36M Voyevoda (Governor)/
RS-20V, RS-20VP /

The R-36m / SS-18 intercontinental ballistic missile was a large, two-stage, tandem, storable liquid-propellant inertial guided missile developed as a replacement to the base R-36 ICBM. The R-36M was a hardened silo housed, highly accurate 4th generation system, physically larger than the most modern US ICBMs deployed at the time. The US Minuteman silos (at 300 psi) were believed to be vulnerable to SS-18 systems. By 1975, analysts argued that few Minuteman could be expected to survive a Soviet attack. The vulnerability of U.S. land based strategic missiles systems to Soviet ICBMs became one of the major issues in U.S. strategic debates in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The R-36M (15A14) Mods 5, & Mod 6 (15A18M) was capable of carrying several different warheads. The basic design is similar to the original R-36 missile, the M was modified to include advanced technologies and more powerful engines. This missile, using Nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) and heptyl (a UDMH [unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine] compound) has a first stage powered by a 460-ton-thrust engines with four combustion chambers, and the second by a single-chamber 77-ton-thrust motor. The first stage uses four closed-cycle single chambered rocket engines. The second stage was equipped with a closed-cycle single chambered sustainer engine and an open-cycle four chambered control motor with a built in sustainer in the toroidal cavity of the fuel tank. The flight control of the first stage was conducted through gimbaled sustainers that used asymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetraoxide. The missile was equipped with an autonomous inertial command structure and an onboard digital computer.

The R-36M used a gas-dynamic system for both the first and second stages that pressurized the propellant tanks through the opening of special ports. This obviated the need for the use of pressurized gases from tanks as well as chemical tank pressurization methods (injecting small amounts of fuel in the oxidizer tank and oxidizer into the fuel tank). These design improvements as well as more effective engines allowed an increase in the total liftoff weight from 183 tons to 209.6 ton and the throw weight from 5.8 tons to 8.8 tons, while preserving the overall dimensions of its predecessor missile.

The missile complex of the fourth-generation P-36M2 silo-based basin weighs 211 tons. The range of flight is 11 000 km. It can carry to the goal ten nuclear-separated individual-point-of-attack combat units capable of overcoming any missile defense system. The power of each warhead is 800 kilotons.

The SS-18 was deployed in modified SS-9 silos, and employed a cold-launch technique with the missile being ejected from the silo prior to main engine ignition. The rocket was placed in a fiberglass composite transport-launch canister, which was subsequently placed into an retrofitted R-36 silo. The special hardened silo was 39 meters deep and had a diameter of 5.9 meters. As previously stated, the missile was ejected from the container prior to main engine ignition. This was done through the help of a solid-propellant gas generator located in the lower unit of the transport-launch canister. According to Western estimates, the SS-18 was deployed in a silo with a hardness of at least 4,000 psi (281 kg/sq. cm; 287 bar), and possibly as high as 6,000 psi (422 kg/sq. cm; 430 bar).

Viktor Litovkin, the military observer of the TASS, noted in March 2018 that at one time "in the Soviet Union missiles of the class "Voevoda" were 308 units. They made them in Dnepropetrovsk at the Yuzhmash plant. And the conclusion of the first treaty between the USSR and the USA on the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms (START I) was largely due precisely to the fact that Washington was very much afraid of this missile, the main part of which consisted of ten nuclear blocks and had a capacity of 800 kilotons each. And besides, any of them could fly to the target according to the individual program."

Not a single missile defense system is able to intercept these warheads-neither current nor promising. "The warheads flew to the target in a cloud of false elements, masking the fighting blocks themselves - metal trimmings, balloons covered with metal glitters and other metalized debris that fused into a single large spot on the screen of the radar from which it was impossible to distinguish real nuclear blocks and intercept them with an anti-missile system," Litovkin noted.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 18-02-2022 19:01:06 ZULU