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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

RS-24 / SS-29 / Yars-M

A Highly Modified Topol-M/SS-27

Analysis By Charles P. Vick, Senior Analyst,



On 29 May 2007 Russia conducted the first reported test of the new RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles (MIRV). A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said "the prototype of the new ICBM, RS-24 with multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles was launched at 2:20 p.m. [Moscow time, 10:20 GMT] from a mobile launcher remodeled to test the new ICBM from the Plesetsk test cosmodrome". "The test launch of the RS-24 (ICBM) occurred at 14:20 Moscow time (1:20 GMT) at Plesetsk and at the designated time the warheads struck the assigned region at the Kura base on Kamchatka," a spokesman for Russia 's Strategic Rocket Forces told the news agency Interfax.

The RS-24 missile can be armed with up to 10 warheads, the Defense Ministry told Interfax. Six war heads are carried by the SS-19 Stiletto while 10 warheads are carried by the SS-18 Satan. The spokesman said the RS-24 will replace ICBMs of the previous generations RS-18 (SS-19 Stiletto) and RS-20 (SS-18 Satan) capable of carrying six and ten warheads respectively. It can also be expected to replace the aged 10 warhead SS-24, Scalpel. It was further stated by the Strategic Rocket Forces spokesman that “It is a genuine new missile but it uses technologies of the Topol-M,” according to AFP. This is in order to penetrate any existing anti-ballistic missile system.

Confusing Information Considerations

Later First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov a former Russian defense minister stated that “the missile was a new version of the Topol-M, first commissioned in 1997 and known as the SS-25, & SS-27 in the West, but one that can carry multiple independent warheads,” ITAR-TASS is quoted as saying. It is said to be compliant with the START-1 treaty and the Moscow Treaty of 2002 requirements.

The latter attributed statement by First deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov has tended to confuse the RS-24's warhead carrying capacity issue. That is because if the RS-24 is indeed a highly modified version of the Topol-M, SS-27 then its potential warhead capacity would only be 3 or 4 warheads. However if it indeed there were 10 warheads tends to suggest that the missile is a new improved Russian produces RS-22, SS-24 SCALPEL ICBM. Prior to this flight test of the full RS-24 system Russia had done at least two research and development flight test in 2005 – 2006 using the older Topol-M derivation for MIRV development. Russia’s military had announced that it intended to produce an ICBM carrying multiple warheads, based on the single warhead Topol-M missile when the US withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty during 2002. This was the first flight test of the full up completely revised RS-24 launch vehicle that greatly increases the booster stages payload capacity in order to carry a multiple warhead package to full range.

The Means of Accomplishing the Task

This could be accomplished for the Topol-M variation if the Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering (MIT) State Enterprise design bureau was to adapt revised versions of the existing Start-1 and Start satellite launch vehicles upper stages to accommodate a larger payload throw weigh capacity that was 1.2 tons for a single warhead. This mass would have to be raised to at least 1.215-1.62 or 3.6 tons to 4.8/4.05 tons for three or four or up to ten warheads suggested throw weight over 10,000-10,500 kilometers range. That is the warhead mass would be 1.2 tons or less based on the SS-27 and SS-24 designs experience. To accommodate the silo requirements and launch canister modifications the 10 warhead Topol-M would require the warheads to be stacked vertically in groups of four and four and topped by two more or three on three on three and one on top with deployment sideways for most of the warheads during the MIRV in plain maneuvering dispenser operations. This becomes quite a trick to stay with the treaty permitted modification both in diameter and length requirements for the launch canister and silo deployment. This is why the chosen warhead mass details are so critical to analyzing the design changes depending on the actual missile chosen and modified by the Russians. If the Topol-M is indeed the highly modified vehicle then its second, third and potential fourth stages would have to have been redesigned to a larger diameter to accommodate the mass and performance loads requirements. Presumably a cylindrical shroud encased hammerhead shaped warhead packet configuration is not inconceivable. This would probably make it greatly resemble the Minuteman-III, IV design characteristics known as the SS-X-27 with a bulbous front section nose warhead packet. In the absence of imagery brings this into question among the many questions remaining open on this new weapon development.

New Analysis

The considerable lengthening of the RS-27 length is totally unavoidable. When Prime Minister Putin demanded that the Ministry of Defense display the RS-24 in Moscow Square he was disappointingly informed because of it very long length it would be impossible to display it and that he would have to accept the SS-25 and SS-29 display. Ultimately the war head sizes had to be reduced to the size of the Bulava/Kalibr warheads to be fitted on the RS-24 design.

Prior to the announcement of this test, the RS-24 ICBM was not previously tested. The "RS" designation system is used in the bilateral START arms control agreements, and internal Russian or the US and NATO designations of this missile were not immediately apparent.

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Page last modified: 07-09-2018 17:46:28 ZULU