Russia nuclear modernization with ICBMs on rail, new nuclear submarines and new liquid fueled ICBM

President Vladimir Putin says Russia will continue its ambitious military modernization program with a particular emphasis on nuclear strategic forces. Putin said the military is set to receive 50 new intercontinental ballistic missiles — a significantly higher number than in previous years.

As of March 2013, Russia had a military stockpile of approximately 4,300 nuclear warheads, of which roughly 1,600 strategic warheads were deployed on missiles and at bomber bases. Another 700 strategic warheads are in storage along with roughly 2,000 nonstrategic warheads. A large numberÑperhaps 3,500Ñof retired but still largely intact warheads await dismantlement

The Russian Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN, in Russian) confirmed December 26 the successful test firing of a RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missile. Late in 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin informed in a meeting with senior military officials that this type of more modern weaponry, capable of hitting up to four targets with a warhead, will gradually replace the RS-12M2 Topol-M.

Emplaced on a mobile platform, this modernized version of the RS-12M2 Topol-M differs mainly from its predecessor by being able to equip multiple reentry, independently targetable warheads.

With a height of 43 meters and a thickness of two, it is able to carry 150- and 300-kt warheads, with a range close to the 10,000 kilometers.

Sergei Karakayev, commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN) recently told reporters that by the year 2020, Russia plans to start inducting into active service the new heavy liquid-fuel ballistic missiles “Sarmat”. Russia is continuing with the modernization of its own strategic nuclear forces.

In addition to the “Sarmat” missiles, work has begun on the creation of a new rail-based complex – “Barguzin”

according to a 2014 Rand study, mobile nuclear missile systems that depend on roads or rail lines visible via overhead imagery effectively shrink the target area and could significantly lower the number of missiles required to barrage mobile systems. In other words, clever targeting professionals could identify where the nukes are stowed, calculate where they’d be from the speed of the trains, and bombard everywhere along the rail lines that they might be.

Russia still retains more than 50 of the old huge Soviet missiles – RS-20, known in the West as Satan. These are the most powerful military missiles amongst the existing ones, capable of carrying ten warheads and with numerous means to prevail over missile defense systems. For these missiles, during the Soviet era, a powerful infrastructure was created, which included underground launching chambers, command posts, storage facilities, maintenance depots with all necessary communications and access to roads for transportation. On the whole, the infrastructure equipment was much more expensive than the missiles themselves. The “Sarmat” missile has been specially designed in such a way so that it is capable of utilizing the existing infrastructure.

SS-27 Replacement will be completed by 2024

Over the next decade, all Soviet-era ICBMs will be retired and replaced with a smaller force consisting of mainly five variants of one missile: the SS-27.

After more than a decade-and-a-half of introduction, the number of SS-27s now makes up a third of the ICBM force. By 2016, SS-27s will make up more than half of the force, and by 2024 all the Soviet-era ICBMs will be gone.

The new force will be smaller and carry fewer nuclear warheads than the old, but a greater portion of the remaining warheads will be on missiles carried on mobile launchers.

Russia deploys two versions of the SS-27 missile: the SS-27 Mod. 1, a single-warhead missile that comes in either mobile (RS-12M1) or silo-based (RS-12M2) variants, and the SS-27 Mod. 2 (RS-24), a road-mobile missile equipped with MIRVs. Deployment of the SS-27 Mod. 1 was completed in 2012 at a total of 78 missiles: 60 silo-based missiles with the 60th Missile Division in Tatishchevo and 18 road-mobile missiles with the 54th Guards Missile Division at Teykovo, northeast of Moscow. All new Russian ICBM deployments are MIRVed SS-27 Mod. 2 ICBMs, or RS-24 (Yars).

New Severodvinsk Class nuclear powered submarine

The first new nuclear-capable Severodvinsk-class (Yasen-class) nuclear-powered guided-missile attack submarine (SSGN) was delivered to the Russian navy in December 2013. A second sub is under construction, and the keel of the third sub was laid down in July 2013. A total of eight to 10 Yasen subs are planned. The submarine is equipped for nonstrategic nuclear weapons, including antisubmarine rockets, and has eight vertical launch tubes for cruise missiles.