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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


RT-21M / SS-20 SABER

The RT-21M / SS-20 was a solid-fuel, two-stage, theater-based ballistic missile based on the first and second stages of the SS-16. The SS-20 was likely intended to replace or augment the SS-4s and SS-5s deployed in the Soviet Eastern European Theater, thus providing approximately three times the number of warheads of the older force.

The two-stage solid-fuel "Pioneer" with single-nozzle sustainers were derived from the first and second stages of the SS-16 ICBM. The cylindrical casings of the sustainer stages were made from composite materials. The solid propellant charge is rigidly fastened to the sustainer body.

The guidance/control system with its onboard digital computer and a gyro-stabilized platform with floating gyros enabled the missile to be horizontally positioned and ensure optimal target accuracy. Flight control during the first stage flight is achieved through aerodynamics and jet vanes. During the second stage low temperature gas is injected into the diverging part of the sustainer nozzle.

The missile was deployed in a transport-launch canister, which was installed on a road-mobile launcher. The launcher was equipped with systems needed to ensure constant combat readiness, preparation and firing. The missile could be launched from a sliding roof garage at regimental bases or from field deployed sites. Before ignition, the launcher was suspended on a hydraulic support, after which, the container was set upright in a vertical position. Before ignition of the first sustainer stage the missile was popped out of the container with the help of a solid propellant gas generator the missile and the first stage sustainer was started. The control of launch was conducted from a mobile control center. The SS-20 also has the capability to be reloaded and refired.

The developer of a complex was the Moscow institute of Thermal Technology which was headed by A.D. Nadiradzye. The flight-design tests were conducted from September 1975 through January 1976 at the Kapustin Yar test site. Deployment of the SS-20 began on March 1976, and the first regiment equipped with the Pioneer missiles was set under airborne alert on August 1976.

According to western data, the rocket was tested in three different variations. The SS-20 Mod1&3 carried a single warhead whereas the SS-20 Mod2 carried a MIRV warhead. The Mod2 equipped with three warheads with a yield of 150 KT each became the standard missile. In this version the warheads are placed on a post-boost vehicle.

On 10 August 1979 the tests of the modernized "Pioneer"-UTTKh (15Zh53) began on the Kapustin Yar test site. They continued through 14 August 1980, and on 17 December 1980 the missile designated as SS-20 Mod3 was deployed. This variant had the same propulsion system as earlier versions, but it due to upgrading of a command structure and instrumentation-service unit it was possible to improve accuracy (CEP) from 550 to 450 meters, to increase maximum range by 10 %, and to increase the area covered by the warheads.

According to some Western assessments, with a new single, lightweight warhead, or with the addition of a third stage (or both), the SS-20 had the potential to be converted to an ICBM with limited capability against the continental United States.

The Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Nuclear Forces [INF] Treaty was signed on in December 1987 and entered into force in June 1988. The fundamental purpose of the INF Treaty was to eliminate and ban US and former USSR (FSU) ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as associated support equipment, with ranges between 500 and 5500 kilometers. The first Soviet SS-20 missile and canister were eliminated under INF Treaty at the Kapustin Yar Missile Test Complex in July 1988. The first Soviet SS-20 missiles were eliminated by launching at the Chita and Kansk missile sites in August 1988. The last of 654 SS-20 missiles was eliminated at the Kapustin Yar Missile Test Complex on 12 May l991. And the last of 499 SS-20 launchers was eliminated at the Sarny Launcher Elimination Facility on 28 May 1991.

RT-21M / SS-20 SABER - Deployment

Between 1978 throught 1986 a total of 441 launch complexes for the "Pioneer" missiles were deployed. The SS-20 was one of the missile systems eliminated under the terms of the INF Treaty, which took effect in June 1988. Prior to the INF drawdown, the SS-20 force comprised 48 bases that housed the regularly deployed force of 405 missiles and launchers.

According to some recent Russian sources, Defense Minister Demetri Ustinov and Commander of the Strategic Missile Forces V.Tolubko prepared for the USA one more unpleasant surprise. In the process of preparing a surprise in 1984, the 99th motorized rifle division was redeployed to Chukotka in the area of ??Anadyr and the special underground structure Portal under the pretext of protecting strategic aerodromes in Anadyr, but its real purpose was different. The 99th Division was supposed to provide cover, protection and, if necessary, defense of the Pioneer PGRK units, which were planned to be urgently redeployed to Chukotka by air and sea at the same time as the PGRK Speed ??Group was deployed in the GDR and Czechoslovakia.

When preparing a campaign for accommodation in the Anadyr area of ??the Pioneer type MRBR, the Soviet leadership took into account the experience of locating in Cuba in 1962 the MRBM P-12 and R-14. Ironically, the operation, successfully carried out then under the leadership of N. Khrushchev, bore the code name "Anadyr"! As is well known, with his decisive actions, N. Khrushchev then not only strengthened the military-political position of Cuba, but also, creating a serious threat primarily to the southern and southeastern states of the USA, solved the main task, for which operation “Anadyr” was started - forced Americans in response to the withdrawal of the newly emerged threat to the United States to remove Jupiter and Thor MRSD deployed against the Soviet Union from Western Europe and Turkey, discouraging American MRSD from Eurasia for as much as 21 years.

For example, the BMEWS Radar Warning System (SPRN) radar post located in Clear Alaska, the Cobra Dane radar on the Shemiya Island, North Dakota radar in the State of North Dakota would be under threat of lightning destruction from the northwest rocket-threatening direction in the United States. It should be added that the detection of launches of ballistic missiles from high-latitude arctic regions with the help of the satellites of the American DSP space system located in geostationary orbit is difficult. In addition, for example, the missile submarine base of Bangor near Seattle, the most important similar facility on the west coast of the United States, would be under the threat of lightning destruction.

It must be emphasized that the development of the Pioneer PGRK in the arctic tundra, which had always been previously based in the wooded areas of the central belt of the USSR, was possible, despite the seemingly doubtful nature of this idea. The climate in Chukotka, of course, is severe, but Anadyr is not Verkhoyansk and not Oymyakon. The January isotherm in Anadyr (-24°C) is the same as, for example, in Irkutsk. The registered absolute minimum temperature (-51°C) did not cause concern for the performance of the systems and components of the Pioneer complex.

The question of the possibility of masking dispersed launchers against the background of the tundra was more acute, but there were hopes for its solvability. The validity of these hopes was confirmed several years later, in 1991, when the United States and its allies could not solve the problem of the timely detection and destruction of mobile launchers of Iraqi tactical missiles. Neither dominance in the air, nor large forces of air and space reconnaissance, nor sabotage and reconnaissance groups helped. Based in the low-rugged desert terrain, the Iraqis were able to launch 83 ballistic missiles, while, as a rule, the Americans found PUs that had already managed to launch missiles, i.e. completed the combat mission. Thus, as a result of the Pioneer PGRK deployed in Chukotka, the United States would suddenly have many unpleasant and intractable problems.

In March 1985 M. Gorbachev came to power. The first thing that M.Gorbachev did when he came to power was to stop work on the creation of the “Speed” complex. Samples of the launcher and missiles ready for flight testing were subsequently secretly destroyed. Naturally, the question of redeploying launchers of the Pioneer PGRK to Chukotka has never been raised again. The 99th motorized rifle division, forgotten by all, remained in Anadyr which was written by Izvestia [February 25, 1997].




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