Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Comparable in size and concept to the US Peacekeeper, the SS-24 is cold-launched ICBM capable of carrying 10 warheads. The missile is deployed both as rail-mobile and silo-based. The silo-based SS-24 was intended to replace the SS-19 Stilletto in the Russian strategic inventory. The SS-24 rail missile system is subject to elimination under the provisions of the START-II Treaty.

The RT-23UTTh is a 3-stage solid-propellant missile with a constant diameter body. The first stage of the silo-based missile uses a rotating nozzle, as compared to the fixed nozzle partially inserted in the motor combustion chamber of the railway-based version. The engines of the second and third stages deploy extendable nozzles during flight to increase the motor's specific impulse without increasing the overall dimensions of the missile. First stage flight control is attained through deflection of the sustainer nozzle, whereas the second and third stage by deflecting the combat stage and by fairing-mounted aerodynamic vanes.

Both silo-based and rail-mobile missiles use an onboard digital computer for autonomous inertial guidance system. The silo-based system uses a two-package block of control instruments made of radiation-resistant electronic elements. The railway-based missile has only one-package block of control instruments.

According to data of Russia’s Defense Ministry, the first missile regiment of the railway-based missile complex was placed on combat duty on October 20, 1987.

The combat missile train is a railway echelon consisting of two-three locomotives and special railway wagons resembling refrigerator and passenger rail cars, which accommodated transport and launch containers with intercontinental ballistic missiles, launch command posts, technological and technical systems, security means, personnel and life-support systems.

The works to develop the combat railway missile complex with the RS-22 (NATO reporting name: SS-24 Scalpel) missile began in the mid-1970s at the Yuzhnoye design bureau in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. These complexes were assembled in Ukraine as well. Overall, three missile divisions were deployed to include 12 train regiments. All of them were armed with 36 missiles, each of them carrying 10 powerful nuclear warheads.

The 10 warheads [with an individual yield of 550 KT], that a RT-23 is capable of carrying each contain a post-boost vehicle with a guidance/control system and a propulsion system are inside the nose cone. The guidance/control system provides a CEP of 500 meters according to unofficial Russian estimates, which designates the missile as hard-target-kill weapon. The missile is deployed in a transport-launching canister from which it is launched through the mortar start technique. To conduct a railway launch the sliding roof of the car opens, the container is erected and the missile is launched with the help of a solid propellant gas generator. The missile can be launched from any point of the route.

The lengths of the two versions of the missile were determined by the dimensions of the silo or the railway launcher. The silo-based missile must then use a nose cone tip flap that is activated when the launch is initiated while the railroad based missile has a folded nose cone that is extended when the launch is conducted.

The creation of the RT-23 UTTh was the culmination of a long-term effort to create a solid-propellant ICBM for multiple basing modes which was initiated on 13 January 1969.

  • 15Zh44 - SS-24 PL-4 The KB Yuzhnoye (OKB-586) was forced to confront numerous difficulties during the development of the railway-based SS-24. These difficulties eventually led to a redefinition original tasking order in July of 1976 where only a silo-launched version of the RT-23 was considered. The preliminary design was completed in March 1977 but deemed unsatisfactory. In December 1979 a second design with an improved propulsion system and a front end was finished. The new design incorporated using reentry vehicles that were identical to the R-36M / SS-18 missile. The suspended activities to build a rail-based RT-23 (15Zh52) missile were resumed, and the design was finished in June 1980. The flight-design tests of the silo-launched RT-23 (15Zh44) began on 26 October 1982. Following several failures during these flight-tests, this version was cancelled in February 1983 by the Soviet Defense Ministry.
  • 15Zh52 - SS-24 Mod-0 On 09 August 1983 a further effort to develop a silo, railway and road-mobile missile designated as RT-23UTTh was approved, but the road-mobile stationing mode was subsequently abandoned. The tests of the railway based RT-23 (15Zh52) were successfully completed in April 1985, and in November 1987 it was experimentally adopted.
  • 15Zh61 - SS-24 Mod-1 The RT-23UTTh tests of the railroad SS-24 Mod-1 version (15Zh61) (almost identical to the 15Zh52) began on 27 February 1985 and were completed in December 1987 and deployment of these missiles began in November 1989. The first regiment with railroad-based missiles was put on alert on 20 October 1987, with a total of36 railway-based RT-23UTTh missiles initially being deployed. They were deployed in three garrison areas: 12 launchers at Kostroma (400 km east of Moscow), 9 launchers at Bershet (1,250 km east of Moscow), and 12 launchers at Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. The Military Railroad Missile Complex (Boyevoy Zheleznyy Raketnyy Kompleks BZhRK) consists of three launch cars [each with a single missile], a command and control car, cars for personnel, and several diesel locomotives. The rail-mobile version could operate on any Soviet rail line that was unobstructed by overhead electrical power lines, a total of 145,000 km of track.
  • 15Zh60 - SS-24 Mod-2 The silo-based version (15Zh60) known as SS-24 Mod-1 was tested from 31 July 1986 through November 1988. The deployment of these missiles in silos formerly occupied by SS-17 Sego ICBMs, started on 28 November 1989, and the first silo-based missile regiment was activated on 19 August 1988. Altogether 56 silo-based RT-23UTTh missiles were initially deployed, with 10 at Tatishchevo in Russia and 46 at Pervomaysk in Ukraine.

The US Defense Department stated in September 1991 that production had officially ceased with a total of approximately 90 missiles deployed. A total of 46 silo-based RT-23UTTh missiles located in Ukraine were phased out and dismantled in compliance with the provisions of the START-I treaty. They were denuclearised and their warheads have since been transferred to Russia. By 1994 most of the rail-mobile systems remained in garrison due to lack of funding. By April 1997 10 silo-based and 36 railway based RT23-UTTh missiles were still deployed on Russian territory. Following Russian ratification of the START-2 treaty in early 2000, all RT-23 UTTh missiles became subject to dismantling.

With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, most design and production facilities for the SS-24 belonged to Ukraine. Ukraine had no interest in continuing to produce these ICBMs, and the production line was closed in 1995.

In August 2002 the Strategic Missile Forces chief, Colonel General Nikolai Solovtsov, announced that the military will keep one division of the train-mounted missiles. One division includes up to five trains, each carrying three missiles, and each missile carries 10 warheads. Russia was supposed to scrap all its RT-23 missiles under START II, but Russia withdrew from the treaty in June after the U.S. abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

As the warranty period for the operation of RS-22 missiles and the railway complexes expired, a decision was taken to liquidate them. On August 12, 2005, the last combat railway missile complex was withdrawn from combat duty.

It had been suggested that these rail-mobile land-based missiles, which have been parked in their garrisons, may be placed back on patrol in response to American missile defense and associated arms control initiatives though this has never been officially confirmed.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list