Tag Archives: Topol-M

Stories of the Year

RIA Novosti has its list of the main military events of 2012.

No surprise number 1 is the Oboronservis scandal, the fall of former Defense Minister Serdyukov, and appointment of successor Sergey Shoygu.

The rest:

  • 16 accidents in munition destruction leaving 12 dead and 23 injured.
  • Retirement of the CO of the Strizhi flight demonstration group who allegedly demanded money from subordinates for the freedom to show up for duty or not.  Remember Senior Lieutenant Sulim at Lipetsk?
  • Vityazi flight group doesn’t participate in Farnborough.
  • Ex-Gorshkov carrier still not delivered to India due to power plant problems.
  • Rearmament of RVSN with Yars and Topol-M ICBMs.  See Karakayev’s remarks the other day.
  • Acceptance of Dolgorukiy, Nevskiy, Bulava, and Severodvinsk all put off until 2013.
  • Delayed space vehicle launches, but fewer failures than in 2011.
  • The death of Ruslan Ayderkhanov.  A surprise pick.  Remember the army and medical examiners say he killed himself even though he was beaten and abused before he died.
  • The contract for five Borey SSBNs, and Prime Minister / President Putin’s role in getting the Defense Ministry and industry to agree on a price.
  • The collapse of Moscow’s $4.2 billion arms deal with Iraq amid talk of corruption.
  • Losing another Indian helicopter tender to the U.S.
  • Russia’s conference on EuroMD.

Longer Combat Duty

Yars in the Field

Seems like standard stuff but there might be something here.  It could be the U.S.-Russian deadlock over missile defense.  It might (somewhat ironically) be the increasing age of Russia’s mobile ICBMs.  There are probably additional or alternative explanations.

Krasnaya zvezda and Mil.ru have dedicated print recently to Russian mobile ICBMs spending more time on their combat patrol routes.

On January 18, KZ wrote that Topol, Topol-M, and Yars units from central Russia and Siberia are in the midst of exercises to implement the highest states of combat readiness and to carry out combat duty on combat patrol routes (in field positions).  Troops are conducting a number of training tasks — system calibration, engineering preparation of field positions, CCD (maskirovka), and combat security.  They also have to react to training “injects” from higher commands.

The Defense Ministry’s daily said units would be deployed to field positions for a longer period, from January 16 to February 3.  It indicated all divisions and units will also institute a new type of training this winter — a “complex practical exercise” in implementing combat readiness.

RIA Novosti’s account indicated this annual training is routine, just with more time spent in the field.

In a December 28 review of the year in RVSN, KZ reported turgidly:

“90 percent of field training measures were conducted with missile launcher regiments and battalions departing for combat patrol routes.  In the summer training period, a test of the order of conducting combat duty in the highest combat readiness states with an increased duration of mobile ground missile regiments on combat patrol routes was conducted.  This allowed for ensuring the readiness of missile launcher regiments for maneuvering actions.  All missile regiments were evaluated positively in the results of the tactical exercises.”

In mid-November, Mil.ru summarized RVSN Commander General-Lieutenant Karakayev’s comments:

“Division, unit, and sub-unit combat training was maintained at a level ensuring their capability to conduct military actions under various conditions of the situation.  A test of the order of conducting combat duty in the highest states of combat readiness with an increased duration of mobile missile regiments on combat patrol routes was conducted.”

“The training of multi-axle chassis mechanic-drivers ensured accident-free operation of nuclear weapons.  Despite the fact that currently more than 70% of missile systems are beyond the limit of their warranty periods, the technical condition, the reliability characteristics of the armaments and military equipment guaranteed maintenance of the required level of combat readiness of missile systems.”

You can find additional relevant info on RVSN combat duty and patrols here.

Extending the SS-25

SS-25 / Topol (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Guneyev)

Strat forces aren’t this author’s favorite or best subject.  Unlike some other Russian military issues, there are many places to turn for info on ICBMs, SLBMs, ALCMs, and their launchers.  Yet one still can’t resist a whack at yesterday’s story.

RVSN Commander General-Lieutenant Sergey Karakayev told the RVSN Veterans’ Union that Russia intends to, once again, extend the service life of its single-warhead mobile SS-25 / Topol ICBM force:

“Ongoing work to extend the service life of the Topol missile system to 25 years allows for keeping missile regiments with mobile launchers of this type on combat duty until 2019, until the start of their rearming with the new Yars mobile missile system.”

So, SS-25 regiments will gradually be rearmed with the MIRVed RS-24 / Yars.  Media outlets noted Russia is currently rearming its second RS-24 regiment, and its sixth silo-based SS-27 / Topol-M regiment.

This isn’t the first, and probably won’t be the last, service life extension for the SS-25, which had an original warranty of ten years.  Its life was extended to 20 years with a test in 2005, to 21 years in 2007, and 23 years, or until 2015 according to an RVSN spokesman, with a firing last October 28.

What caught one’s eye was Russianforces.org’s attention to the fact that the Russians say they’ll extend the service life by two more years (25), but the missiles will stay in the force four more years (2019).  Russianforces concludes Moscow must’ve been making SS-25s as late as 1994 rather than 1992.

In any event, it’s a cheap way to keep deployed ICBM numbers up, as long as the SS-25 performs.  A 25-year SS-25 lets them stretch RS-24 and SS-27 deployment timelines, find SS-18 and SS-19 replacements, and produce Bulava SLBMs at a time when there are many other demands on the defense budget.

Maybe it gets the RVSN to 2014 or 2015 before they have to deploy the RS-24 more quickly to replace retired SS-25s.  If they further extend the SS-25’s life, maybe they get close to 2018 or 2019 before the RS-24 deployments really pick up.

At any rate, it was notable that Karakayev put his stamp on the SS-25’s life extension.

Latest on GOZ Woes (Part II)

To review this week . . . Prime Minister Putin’s current deadline for completing GOZ contracts is August 31, but it’s unlikely to be met, even by loyal Deputy PM and OSK Board Chairman Igor Sechin.  Deputy Finance Minister Siluanov said Defense Ministry contracts are being made on credits and government-backed financing rather than cash.  Putin said the price tag for GOZ-2011 is 750 billion rubles, but 30 percent of projected procurement still isn’t covered by contracts as the final third of the year begins.

How did the government, Defense Ministry, and OPK arrive at an August 31 deadline that’s unlikely to be met?

The latest round of this year’s GOZ woes started in early July when MIT General Designer Yuriy Solomonov told Kommersant that GOZ-2011 was already broken, and Russia’s strategic missile inventory is not being renewed as necessary.  He said there’s no contract for the RS-24 / Yars ICBM, and the late arrival of money makes it impossible to salvage 2011.

President Dmitriy Medvedev responded by calling Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov on the carpet.  According to RIA Novosti, he told him:

“Sort out the situation.  If there’s information that the state defense order is broken, it’s true, organizational conclusions are needed in connection with those who are responsible for this, regardless of position or rank.”

“If the situation is otherwise, we need to look into those who are sowing panic.  You know how according to law in wartime they dealt with panickers — they shot them.  I’m allowing you to dismiss them, do you hear me?”

RIA Novosti reported Serdyukov’s opinion on the “wild growth” in the price of military products, especially from MIT and Sevmash.  He said MIT is asking 3.9 billion and 5.6 billion rubles respectively for Topol-M and Yars ICBMs.  Serdyukov put GOZ-2011 at 581 billion rubles [different from Putin's figure!], and added that only 108 billion, or 18.5 percent, was not yet under contract.  He said everything would be done in 10 days.

At virtually the same time, Deputy PM and VPK Chairman, Sergey Ivanov told ITAR-TASS 230 billion rubles were not yet contracted out.  OSK piled on Serdyukov, claiming contracts for 40 percent of the Navy’s share of the GOZ weren’t finalized.

In late July, it looked like Northern Wharf (which reportedly produces 75 percent of Russia’s surface ships, and is not part of OSK) might be made into an example for other “GOZ breakers.”  While prosecutors talked vaguely about the misuse of GOZ money, the shipbuilder’s representatives apparently mounted a vigorous defense, asserting that the enterprise has been right on time, even though it’s underfinanced by the Defense Ministry.

Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy said prosecutors uncovered 1,500 GOZ-related legal violations during the preceding 18 months.  He indicated there were 30 criminal convictions, and state losses amounted to millions of rubles in these cases.  The most egregious example  was the theft of over 260 million rubles given to OSK’s Zvezdochka shipyard to repair Kirov-class CGN Petr Velikiy.  Fridinskiy indicated the enterprise director and his close associates apparently had 40 million of the money in their own names.  Recall Fridinskiy earlier said 20 percent of defense procurement funding is stolen.

According to Rossiyskaya gazeta, Defense Minister Serdyukov claimed he was on the verge of signing contracts with MIT for Topol-M and Yars production.  Once again, he said all contracting would be finished in two weeks.

In mid-August, OSK enterprises Sevmash, Admiralty Wharves, and Zvezdochka said they would soon be forced to cease work unless the Defense Ministry signed contracts with them.  Putin, Sechin, and Serdyukov met and launched a special interdepartmental commission to set prices for the Navy’s remaining 40 billion rubles in GOZ contracts.  And, according to Kommersant, everyone was once again reassured that all contracts would be completed in two weeks.

And it’s not just all ICBMs, ships, and submarines . . . Kommersant wrote that the Defense Ministry eschewed contracts for 24 or more MiG-29K and more than 60 Yak-130 trainers at MAKS-2011.

So what does the mid-year GOZ picture look like? 

The president and prime minister have fumed and set a series of deadlines, not met thus far.  And the defense minister and deputy prime ministers have assured them they would meet each deadline in turn. 

More interesting, and somewhat unnoticed, is the fact that the prime minister and defense minister (among others) seem to be consistently working from different sets of numbers on the size of the GOZ, and how much has been placed under contract.  The GOZ hasn’t captured this kind of leadership attention at any time in the past 20 years.

Producers are being honest when they say late state contracts mean they can’t do anything (or at least what the Defense Ministry wants them to) in what remains of the year.

Picking up the pieces of GOZ-2011, and trying to put GOZ-2012 on a better footing will occupy the rest of this year.

Lost in everything is what will the Russian military get eventually by way of new hardware, and when will they get it?  And how good will it be?

Solomonov on Need for Increased Missile Production

MIT General Designer Yuriy Solomonov told Interfaks yesterday Russia needs to increase intercontinental ballistic missile production in the coming years to preserve its strategic nuclear forces (SYaS or СЯС).  See a more complete version of his remarks at Arms-expo.ru.  He said:

“We have two years at our disposition to be in a condition, proceeding from implementation of the production preparation program, to get all cooperation ready for the possibility of manufacturing a large quantity of products.  Many times more than have been made previously.”

He said Russia has produced 6-10 missiles per year over the last ten years.  And he acknowledged that plans for increased production volume may not be fulfilled:

“All this rests, with respect to corporate enterprises, on resolving the task of allocating them investment.  And the regulatory-technical base — the way officials interpret it — doesn’t allow for resolving this task.  If it isn’t resolved, it’s possible to say unequivocally that the task of significantly increasing the volume of products delivered by 2013 won’t be fulfilled either.”

So he’s saying the reluctant state will need to invest in Votkinsk and its component suppliers?

Solomonov notes that the Votkinsk plant, manufacturer of the Topol-M and RS-24 ICBMs, produced up to 120 Pioner (SS-20) medium-range missiles a year between 1980 and 1987.  He says:

“It follows from this that the production capabilities of the factory undoubtedly allow it to realize, proceeding from this potential, production of a substantially larger quantity of missiles than in the preceding ten years.”

Karakayev on ICBMs

On Tuesday (30 November), RVSN Commander, General-Lieutenant Sergey Karakayev had his first encounter with the media since taking over the land-based strategic missile force in June.  Krasnaya zvezda covered it, of course. 

Karakayev said all newly deployed mobile Topol-Ms will be the MIRVed (RS-24 / Yars) variant rather than single-warhead missiles.  He said a sixth silo-based Topol-M regiment will go on combat duty at Tatishchevo this month, and more silo-based deployments will occur next year.

Karakayev also said:

“To support the required balance of forces in carrying out the mission of nuclear deterrence, qualitative improvement of the components of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces [SYaS or СЯС] is required.  Russia’s missile industry will continue development of new missile systems, including new technical solutions incorporated within missile systems of the ‘Topol-M’ type.”

The media repeated ITAR-TASS to the effect that most experts think this means Moscow will develop a heavy silo-based ICBM to replace Russia’s remaining ‘heavies’ — UR-100NUTTKh (SS-19 / Stiletto) and R-36M2 (RS-20V or Voyevoda, SS-18 / Satan Mod 6).

Rossiyskaya gazeta added that 10,000 military and 8,000 civilian posts in the RVSN had been cut over the past 5 years.  But further cuts in RVSN armies, divisions, and regiments aren’t anticipated.

Chernavin on Bulava Design and Testing Problems

Svpressa.ru provided its version of this week’s comments from a Navy Main Staff source: 

“. . . there’s no alternative to equipping new proyekt 955 ‘Borey’ missile cruisers [SSBNs] with the Bulava missile.  Its acceptance into the arms inventory is delayed some, but the testing will be successfully concluded in any event and the missile will be accepted into the arms inventory.  There are no insurmountable obstacles to this.” 

Then former Soviet Navy CINC Vladimir Chernavin answered Svpressa’s questions about naval strategic systems.  He is still focused on what he sees as bad decisions in the process of designing and testing Bulava, rather than defective components and assembly problems.  But like most, he sees no alternative to Bulava at this point. 

Asked why the Navy doesn’t opt for Sineva, Chernavin said: 

“’Sineva’ is a magnificent missile, but it’s liquid-fuelled.  And this is a very dangerous ‘cargo’ for nuclear submarine crews.  The liquid fuel used in it is so corrosive, it burns through metal.  In addition, it’s extremely poisonous.” 

“In Soviet times solid-fueled missiles were put on proyekt 941 nuclear submarines.  But back then for technical reasons we could only make them in very large dimensions.  Proyekt 941 nuclear submarines had 20 90-ton missiles.  And each carried 10 MIRVed, highly accurate nuclear warheads.  The fact is one nuclear submarine [SSBN] could destroy up to 200 important targets, you can say, cities.  The biggest designer of missile-space equipment Vladimir Chelomey and his firm in Miass made all these missiles.  When I was still Soviet Navy CINC, we began to develop a missile [SS-NX-28 or Bark], like the ‘Bulava,’ to replace our heavy missiles on proyekt 941 boats.” 

Fleet Admiral Chernavin

Asked why it didn’t succeed, Chernavin replied: 

“Unfortunately, after Chelomey’s death, the continuity was broken.  One of Chelomey’s assistants headed the firm.  We gave it great resources to perfect this heavy missile – reduced dimensions, increased accuracy.  This work stopped with the USSR’s collapse.  And when the country’s leadership decided to restart it, they took as a basis not a naval missile, but the ground-based ‘Topol M.’  They changed design bureau accordingly.  The idea was tempting – to make one all-purpose missile for ground pounders and for sailors.  This would significantly reduce production costs.” 

But what was the stumbling block? 

“They didn’t figure that the firm that made the ‘Topol’ had no concept about naval missiles.  I remember a sad instance.  When ‘Topol’ specialists learned that a submarine-launched missile had to launch while the nuclear submarine is moving, they grabbed their heads.  Everyone knows ‘Topol’ fires from a stationary platform.  Everything in the calculations had to be completely changed.  The ground-based design bureau encountered problems that Chelomey had already solved, and it had to reinvent the wheel.  Another, to put it mildly, mistake was committed by cutting costs in the very course of missile development.  With Chelomey it was laid out as follows.   After the creation of a prototype so-called pop-up testing began.  We had an old specially reequipped diesel submarine in the Black Sea for this.  A missile tube was placed in it.  A telemetered missile is ejected from it.  Not less than two of such tests were needed.  Only after this did they proceed to other tests, of which there were a great number.  ‘Market consciousness’ in new Russian conditions gave the project’s directors the idea of economizing on tests.  There were no preliminary tests, but immediately they put ‘Bulava’ on a submarine and all steps were conducted with the wave of a hand, having skipped several phases of testing.  Now we all see what a ‘pretty penny’ this ‘economizing’ has cost the state.  The end of testing is not in sight, but ‘Bulava’ won’t fly.” 

 Does Bulava have any future?  

“I think there’s no longer time to give up.  Whether we want this or not, we have to get ‘Bulava’ in shape.” 

But what if its designers aren’t up to it?  

“I think they’re up to it.  They’ve hit so many bumps that they, on the whole, have gained experience and will guide it to the end, but again this will cost not a little money.  But less now than if we set out today to develop a missile from scratch.  Of course, in principle, it wasn’t necessary to let these people build a naval missile.  Now we have to get unscrewed.  And throw resources around.  But, I’m sure, they’ll still get ‘Bulava’ to fly.”