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Outside View: Russia boosts nuclear punch

With the RS-24 entering service, the structure of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces in the coming decade looks clear. Along with the Topol-M, the new missile will form the backbone of the Strategic Missile Forces, their numbers totaling up to 250 and 60, respectively, by the end of the next decade.
by Ilya Kramnik
Moscow (UPI) Nov 4, 2008
The introduction of the RS-24 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile in 2009 will be the most important phase in the renewal of the Russian Strategic Missile Force after the adoption of the Topol-M.

For the first time in post-Soviet Russia, a new ground-based multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicle -- MIRV -- equipped missile system will be adopted by Russia's military.

There is little information on the performance of the new RS-24. According to the most reliable sources, this missile, developed by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology, as the Topol-M was, is in fact a further development of the latter, with an improved third stage and dispensing mechanism, the so-called bus, from the RSM-56 Bulava ICBM.

The new missile should have a range of 6,600 miles or more, and the nuclear warheads are most likely to have a yield of between 150 and 300 kilotons each.

The RS-24 will hold an inter-position between the Topol-M with a 550-kiloton single warhead -- though in the future it could be tipped with three individually targeted warheads with a yield between 150 and 300 kilotons -- and heavy lift launch vehicle RS-20 Voevoda, carrying up to 10 warheads, 750 kilotons each. The RS-24 is therefore likely to be comparable in performance with the silo-based liquid-fueled UR-100 NUTTH.

Aside from the warheads, the RS-24 carries missile defense penetration systems, hindering enemy detection and interception, which makes the new missile a valuable asset amid the deployment of U.S. global missile defense.

Like the Topol-M, the RS-24 could be specified in either a silo-based or a mobile version, which would increase the Russian Strategic Missile Force's versatility. With the current production capacity, by the beginning of the next decade, up to 15 intercontinental ballistic missiles, including five to six RS-24s, could be delivered to the military annually, keeping ICBM numbers at the required level.

With the RS-24 entering service, the structure of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces in the coming decade looks clear. Along with the Topol-M, the new missile will form the backbone of the Strategic Missile Forces, their numbers totaling up to 250 and 60, respectively, by the end of the next decade.

Additionally, by 2020 several dozen Topol and UR-100 NUTTH intercontinental ballistic missiles will remain in service. A new heavy missile is also expected to replace the RS-20 Voevoda ICBM. All in all, the Strategic Missile Forces would include about 300 to 350 missiles of various types with 800 warheads.

The backbone of the Russian Naval Strategic Nuclear Force will be liquid-fueled RSM-54 Sineva ICBMs installed on six 667BDRM nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, which will have their lifecycle extended into the late 2020s, and cutting-edge solid-fuel RSM-56 Bulava ICBMs on 955/955A submarines.

The Russian navy plans to commission eight missile submarines of the above-mentioned class to replace the 667BDR submarines. By 2020 the Russian navy most likely will have between 12 and 14 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines carrying between 192 and 224 missiles with 800 to 900 warheads.

Russian strategic aviation will go on with the employment of the Tupolev Tu-95MS -- NATO designation Bear -- and the Tupolev Tu-160 White Swan -- NATO designation Blackjack -- bombers, as the new advanced strategic bomber will not enter service before 2020. The balance in bomber class numbers is likely to change, however, with Tu-95 Bears down to between 40 and 48 from the current 68, and Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjacks up to between 22 and 24 from the current 16.

Therefore, before the end of the next decade, the total potential of Russia's nuclear triad is estimated to be between 1,600 and 1,900 warheads. Is it a big figure? On the one hand, with the given deployment of U.S. missile defenses, this number of warheads doesn't seem so. On the other hand, the rapidly increased defense penetration capability of Russian nuclear weapons will make this inventory sufficient to inflict unacceptable damage to an attacker, whoever it may be.

(Ilya Kramnik is a military correspondent for RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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Robert Gates Shows Nuclear Impatience
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Nov 04, 2008
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is all for a resumption of nuclear tests. In a key speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, he said the U.S. could not maintain deterrence, reduce arms or modernize them without tests.

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