A Yars ballistic missile. Source: Rossiyskaya Gazeta
In a move that is expected to increase the striking power of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces (SMF), the Yars Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) system will replace older versions of Topol missiles.
The combat readiness of the forces will be enhanced by upgrading regiments and divisions with the new nuclear weapon system, SMF Commander Sergei Karakaev said. “We are planning to place 16 missile launch sites armed with the Yars missile on combat alert.”
This formidable technology is produced in two versions – mobile and stationary. Depending on the location of the unit and the operating zone, missiles can be launched either in silos or from railway tracks. In the latter case, they can be controlled from a mobile command post. It is believed that these missiles can deliver at least four thermonuclear warheads weighing 300 kilotonnes each to a target located 11,000 kilometres away.
The Russian Defence Ministry says the Yars along with the Topol-M will form the SMFs main strike force for the next couple of decades. They not only increase its military capabilities but strengthen the potential deterrence of Russia’s strategic triad. Furthermore, the same Yars will replace several divisions of the reliable but morally old Topol nuclear missile system.
The Teykovskoe Command has already been handed the mobile Yars. Now the mobile ground units are being provided to the Tagilsk and Novosibirsk divisions. A missile regiment in Kozelsk division on training combat duty will shortly test-fire a Yars missile system consisting of four silo launchers and a unified command post.
The Yars system was developed based on the Topol but is much more powerful. Its missile, the RS-24 is superior in throw weight to the Topol’s RS-12 by more than 20 percent. Although the Yars carries three to four warheads, the designers have succeeded in keeping the strategic missile’s range to greater than 10,000 kilometres. It uses a three stage system. Its body and the instrument compartment have been treated with a coating that reduces the impact of various damaging factors, including a nuclear explosion. Furthermore, at its launch, the missile can carry out a programmed manoeuvre. This helps it make a relatively safe passage through a nuclear cloud should an enemy attack the Yars position with a ballistic missile.
According to experts, the breakthrough technological solutions used in creating the RS-24 help the missile in overcoming any defence system. The strategic Yars does not need to fear even layered missile defence systems, including ones based in space.
The Sarmats are coming
The operational strength of the SMF is now 400 strategic missile launchers with intercontinental ballistic missiles. Their numbers are limited by Russia’s international obligations. Therefore, the development of the land-based component of our nuclear triad goes in two directions. Firstly, by modernizing silo based and mobile missile systems that Russia already possesses. Secondly, by developing a new strategic arsenal. Military sources say that in 2018-2020 the SMF are receiving a qualitatively new weapon. They probably have in mind the stationary Sarmat with a heavy intercontinental ballistic missile.
Experimental design work on this project is being performed by a group of industrial enterprises under the direction of the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau. They plan to complete the work in five to six years. According to the former chief of the General Staff of the SMF Victor Esin, the Sarmat will replace the RS-20V Voevoda which is currently on combat readiness. And the former head of the 4th Central Research Institute of the Ministry of Defence, General Vladimir Vasilenko believes that the new heavy intercontinental ballistic silo-based missile will possess the capacity to deliver warheads to targets using not only energetically optimal trajectories with direct bearings of approach, but also strikes from various directions, including via the South Pole.
According to the SMF Commander Sergei Karakaev, the START 3 agreement does not limit upgrading existing weapons and creation of new weapons. New developments in the interests of the Strategic Missile Forces are maintained to meet the requirements of the agreement.
First published in Russian by Rossiyskaya Gazeta
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