Russia’s New BMD-Beater


Russia recently launched a new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capable of carrying Multiple Independently targeted Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) warheads, ostensibly intended to penetrate the U.S. ballistic missile defense system. The improved Topol-M missile launched on 29 May was fired from a mobile launcher at the Plesetsk launch site in northwestern Russia. Its test warhead was reported to have landed on target about 3,400 miles down range on the Far Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula.

The TOPOL-M - given the Soviet designation RS-24 and the NATO designation SS-27 - also has a submarine-launched variant known as the Bulava (NATO SS-N-30).The naval missile will be carried by the new submarines of the Borey class. Statements from Russian officials indicate that the Topol-M and Bulava are being upgraded with new warheads and other countermeasures (probably decoys) to counter the U.S. ballistic missile defense system now being deployed. If these missiles are specifically intended to overcome U.S. defenses, their warheads can be expected to have maneuvering re-entry vehicles, called MaRVs in the strategic lexicon.

MaRV warheads were developed by the United States during the Cold War in response to Soviet ballistic missile defenses, but were never installed on ICBMs.

The original land-based Topol-M missile was deployed in small numbers, probably because of technical problems and large cost overruns. The first Topol-Ms were placed in service in 1997. The land-based Topol-M now appears to be in production to replace obsolete (and questionably reliable) fixed-silo ICBMs left over from mid-Cold War era and eventually the SS-25, the Soviet-eras first generation land-mobile ICBM.

Similarly, the submarine-launched Bulava is apparently planned to replace the outdated missiles in the Soviet-era Delta IV class that remain in Russian service. The Topol was adopted for submarine use following cancellation of a new missile, the SS-NX-28, that apparently suffered massive technical problems.

President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly stated that Russia would continue to improve its nuclear weapons systems and respond to U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in Europe. Following the ICBM test on 29 May, Russian news agencies reported First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov saying that the ICBM, as well as a tactical cruise missile that also was tested that day, can penetrate any missile defense system.

“As of today, Russia has new [missiles] that are capable of overcoming any existing or future missile defense systems,” ITAR-Tass quoted Ivanov. “So in terms of defense and security, Russian can look calmly to the country’s future.”

Ivanov is a former defense minister seen as a potential candidate to succeed Putin in next years national elections.

— Norman Polmar

  • Grandjester

    This is very interesting, it looks like Vlad is trying to pull off a Reverse Reagan(TM) and get us to spend massive amounts of cash on ABM/BMD/Star Wars Redux, which along with the multi-trillion dollar GWOT should bankrupt the US in less than a decade and allow the Chinese to re-possess the country when we default on all the bonds and other loan papers they carry. Doesn’t really matter if the new SS’s don’t really work (like Star Wars MKI), we still have to counter. Brilliant!

  • C

    i’m going to put my tinfoil hat on here and speculate that the soon-departing administration is buying up lots of strategic defense-related stocks. how convenient is it that the US starts laying down (relatively) unilateral plans for BMD and Bush’s self-described good friend gets an itchy trigger finger? an arms race is great for business AND politics.

  • Bill

    That is, in fact, not a shipping container but a launch canister that is part of the TEL for the road-mobile version of the ICBM.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Morning Folks,
    In response to lucabrazi’s coments, the photo shown in this post of a YEL with the canister is an old one and was discredited by western intell., long ago, clue look at the tires.
    AS for the Russian nuclear infrastructure, if youwant to find old line Soviet era scientists go to the Physics or Math Dept’s. of most nmajor U.S. Universities. When the Soviet Union went down so did it’s nuclear weapons program. For want of employment all the 30-40 year old mid career Scientists left the country and the best were scooped up by the U.K. and the United States.
    AS to Russia’s abilitry to restart a weapons program, even with $60-70 per barell oil the Russian economy is still one click below Mexico. For Putint to become a player again with the big guy(s) he would have to invest over 20% of the Russian GDP into weapons development, unlikely. The old Soviet Union is dead.
    C’s comments were pretty much on the money, buy stock in Boeing. Putin’s macherations are nothing more then an effort to make the Russsians feel that they are players once again on the world stage.
    For Bush the timing couldn’t be better since he has become a salesman for Boeing Co. and pushing for a missile defense program for Europe, again protection form who?
    North Korea firing a nuclear armed missile (if they had such a thing) over the lenght of Russia to hit Europe, I don’t think so. Iran’s missile program is not quite where Saddams was. They are still buying North Korean Scuds at least Saddam could make a two stage version that could and did hit Israel. Iran is not yet to this level.
    Old myths die hard.
    Byron Skinner

  • Skyler

    Designing a new ICBM is not an overnight ordeal… especially for Russia, who has barely any money to do so in the first place. To say that this is in “response” to the BMD program is pure opportunistic politics and propaganda.

  • John

    Skyler is dead on. To suggest that this is a “response” to the BMD is pure propaganda by the anti-BMD crowd. This missile has been in development for many, many years.
    If we didn’t have a BMD program and the Russians rolled this missile out, the Bush-haters would be shrieking that he’s leaving us dangerously unprotected blah blah blah.

  • Byron Skinner

    Good Morning Folks,
    This story is getting funnier by the day. Over on another sie I saw that the Russians are saying oops, last week test was NOT an RS-25 ICBM but an Iskander-M (SS-26 Stone) or an R-500 the Russians were not real clear, both short range missiles, but they did say that the test showed a one meter accuracy for what ever was tested and offered photo evidence, sure like no one has heard of “Photoshop”.
    To Mr. Putin, you are not “Peter the Great” and when you die they won’t name/rename a city St. Putinburg.
    Byron Skinner

  • Grandjester

    Wouldn’t VLADGRAD be more apropo?

  • lucabrazi

    They tested two systems. One was the ICBM, the other was a hybrid of some sort- a cruise missile launched using the launcher and support equipment of an Iskander ballistic missile.
    Granted they aren’t the Soviets but they are: designing, testing and deploying stuff at a steady clip; increasing their investment in defense by double digits; selling lots of miltech to the PRC; and they still have a nuke complex sized to service a Cold War era force (according to one 2005 Swedish Defence Research Agency report they remain capable of producing 10,000 to 2,000 warheads per year). Just because the glass is half empty by Soviet-era standards, doesn’t mean things won’t get messy if it gets tipped over. None of this is cause for hysteria, but it also isn’t an excuse to exercise our anti-BMD reflexes either.

  • lucabrazi

    The numbers I cited from the Swedish study should’ve read 7,000 to 2,000. Personally, I’d guess the actual total is probably lower than the floor they cited.

  • bobbymike34

    Strategic weapon activity in Russia and China should continue to press upon the US the need for modernized strategic forces of its own. Instead we have articles about Trident replacemnt in 2029 and Minuteman III to 2040.
    The US needs new systems with the most modern technology available.

  • K.A.Sharma

    I do not agree that Russia has used photoshop to project the MIRVed missile RS-24. Americans are fed on so much propaganda by their news media and administration that they just can’t imagine someone else can have capabilities matching theirs. After all one must remember Russia sent a man to space before the U.S. did. Perhaps Russia is the only other nation in the world that has some of the comparable technology to U.S. It’s no credit to U.S. that Russian Scientists are working in U.S.Universities while their own are busy creating conditions for an Arms race.