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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

R-9 - SS-8 SASIN - Later Western Views

The missile variously known as the R-9, SS-8, and SASIN was the subject of two American intelligence failures. When testing of the SS-8 began in April 1961, many Western analysts believed the missile to a large rocket, larger than any other Soviet rockets, capable of delivery a 100 MT bomb. The Soviets did have a program to develop such a missile, which eventually took shape as the Ur-500 Proton, though this space launch vehicle was never flown as an ICBM. Subsequently, the SS-8 flight tests and operational deployments were associated with the SASIN missile paraded in Red Square 1964. In fact, the SASIN was the R-26 (8K66) missile designed by Yuzhnoye (OKB-586). Development of the R-26 was halted by governmental order in July 1962, and the missile was never flight tested. It is not entirely clear at what point Western intelligence discovered that the missile shown in parades in Moscow and the missiles actually deployed elsewhere in Russia were different and entirely unrelated missiles.

The R-9A was never shown in the Moscow military parades, so the SS-8 Sasin designation was initially applied to the R-26 missile, which was shown in the military parades - even today, pictures of the R-26 are often shown when the R-9A missile is described.

National Intelligence Estimate SOVIET CAPABILITIES FOR STRATEGIC ATTACK NIE 11-8-63, October 18, 1963, noted "We now believe that the SS-8 which we previously considered might be a very large missile, is comparable to the SS-7 in payload capacity.... The Director, Defense Intelligence Agency and the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF, believe that a confident selection between possible SS-8 delivery capabilities cannot be made at this time. In their opinion, available evidence and analysis do not permit excluding the possibility that the SS-8 may carry a nosecone of 10,000 lbs or a little more."

Evidence acquired during 1963 led the US to modify estimates as to the size and composition of the Soviet ICBM force in the near term. The most important single development was the interruption of the deployment program during the summer and fall of 1962. The primary reasons for this interruption appear to have been technical, including a probable modification to the second-generation SS-7 ICBM system and persisting difficulties in development of the SS-8. Whatever the reason, however, it is clear that 1962 was a year of reappraisal, in which Soviet planners apparently made important new decisions with respect to their ICBM program. Some of these, for example curtailment of SS-8 deployment, were already evident by late 1963.

In November 1964, in the annual October Revolution Parade, the Soviets paraded a new missile which they described as an ICBM and which was given the name "SASIN" by NATO. A comparison of the size and shape of the SASIN with the estimated characteristics of every known Soviet ICBM made it perfectly clear that the SASIN could only be the SS-8, and that its re-entry vehicle weight had to be between 3,000 and 4,000 pounds.

A National Security Agency history, "The Soviet Land-based Ballistic Missile Program, 1945-1972" An Historical Overview" [TOP SECRET UMBRA] noted that the SS-8, a two-stage liquid-fueled ICBM, was probably initially deployed in 1963. It ramained an operational missile although its deploynent was believed to be limited, due mainly to its use of a cryogenic oxidizer.

The SS-8 developrent program was associated with a high failure rate from the beginning. Thirteen of the first 29 launches resulted in failures, including the initial launch on 09 April 1961. Following the initial larmch, a spasmodic test program ensued. Most of the tests were conducted on the Tyuratam range, but some missiles were also launched on the Plesetsk range. Although the first test of an SS-8 failed, the second test, on 21 April 1961, was a success. A third larmch, on 29 May 1961, was also successful. And from July to October of that year, nine more launches of SS-8s were atterrpted, but with four failures. Three of the launches in October were from Tyuratam to the Pacific, a test series that also included firings of the SS-6 and SS-7 to the same impact area.

After completion of this test series, a lengthy pause of five months occurred in the SS-8 test program, ending with a launch in March 1962. In March and April, a total of five launches were attempted, with two failures. A pause of six weeks was again noted, ending with the rapid firing of 10 missiles between 9 June and 29 July 1962. Again, the failure rate was high, with four failing in flight. It was apparent from these tests that significant modifications had been made to the SS-8, but no additional launches were noted for the next six months.

Apparently the Soviets had temporarily stopped testing of the SS-8 to reassess its technical design and capabilities in view of presistently high percentage of failures the missile was experiencing in its developrental program. Launches of the SS-8 resumed in February 1963 when missiles were fired to Kamchatka. On 14 March another SS-8 was successfully launched in a flight trajectory that was markedly similar to the one used for the Pacific launches in 1961. The appearance of variants of the SS-8 was viewed by Western intelligence as "probably the result of different production m::xiels, one for ICBM usage, the other for space-related operations". On 22 January 1964, three SS-8s were launched within a period of 30 minutes. The first impacted in the Pacific, the second failed in flight, and the third impacted on Kamchatka. These launches possibly represented the "final acceptance" of the SS-8 by the SRF.

The SS-8 was capable of a range of about 6, 000 nautical miles. Its over-all length was about 77 feet, with a first-stage diarreter of about ten feet and a seoond-stage diameter of about eight feet. Gross weight of the missile was approximately 167,000 pounds, With the reentry vehicle weighing between 3,000 and 3,500 pounds. FirSt stage thrust was about 290,000 pounds; second stage thrust was about 67,000 pounds. The first stage employed a liquid-fueled propulsion system with four canbustion chambers which were thrust-modulated to match a progranmed velocity. Thrust vector and roll control were probably provided by vernier engines or jet vanes. The second stage was believed to have a single bi-propellant main engine and four vernier engines; its propulsion system was started prior to first-stage cutoff and separation. The reentry vehicle was probably separated fran the booster by a pneumatically or explosively actuated system. With a length of about 6.6 feet and a diarreter at its base of about 4.4 feet, the circu:lar error probability of the reentry vehicle was about one nautical mile.

Although troubled throughout its developrental program by a high failure rate, and although its role as an ICBM was severely hampered by its use of a cryogenic oxidizer, the SS-8 remained an operational missile, though its deployment as an operational ICBM was believed to be limited.

Western intelligence persisted for quite some time in the belief that the SASIN missile seen in Red Square was associated with the SS-8 flight tests and operational deployments. In fact, the SASIN was the R-26 (8K66) missile designed by Yuzhnoye (OKB-586). Development of the R-26 was halted by governmental order in July 1962, and the missile was never flight tested. In fact, the entirely unrelated R-9A missile was the deployed SS-8. Like the R-16 it is not entirely clear at what point Western intelligence discovered that the missile shown in parades in Moscow and the missiles actually deployed elsewhere in Russia were different and entirely unrelated missiles.

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Page last modified: 28-05-2018 19:42:42 ZULU