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Much like other components of the Russian strategic nuclear potential,
Much like other components of the Russian strategic nuclear potential, the RS-20B and RS-20V missiles require modernization.

To extend the service life of aging missiles, they are repaired and undergo technical upgrades. If subsequent tests are a success, their operational life is prolonged. Modernizing the strategic nuclear potential is one of the main challenges that the Russian Armed Forces will tackle over the next 10 to 15 years. (Image Gallery)

RS-20B and RS-20V, also known as 15A-18B and 15A-18M, along with R-36M UTTH and R-036M2, are the priority candidates for modernization for a whole number of reasons, from the technological excellence that allowed them to stay operational much longer than was expected, to combat potential. These missiles can carry 10 750-kiloton nuclear warheads, and fully deserve their menacing nicknames - Voevoda (army commander) in Russia, and SS-18 Satan in NATO.

At present, Russian Strategic Missile Force has 75 R-36M UTTH/R-36M2, which are capable of carrying a total of 750 warheads. If their service life is extended up to 30 years, they can be in the service until the middle of the next decade, while the newer R-36M2s may be in operation until the end of the 2010s.

Commander of the Russian Strategic Missile Force Nikolai Solovtsov said that in theory, this measure could help reduce the urgency of the problem and give Russia more time to develop the production of new ICBMs, including heavy missiles, to replace the Voevodas. If the new missile is developed, Russia will be all set - it will have RS-12M2 Topol-M, a light ICBM with one to three warheads; RS-24 Yars, a six-warhead medium missile, and, finally, a heavy ICBM, a potential successor to the Voevoda.

However, there are some problems that could wreck all plans if they remain unresolved. The Voevoda missiles were produced by the Yuzhmash plant in Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. The equipment required for their modernization is also manufactured by this plant. Considering the complicated nature of Russian-Ukrainian relations, nobody can guarantee uninterrupted supplies, and, as a result, the combat readiness of the missile divisions in Uzhur and Dombarovsk, which are equipped with Voevadas.

Development of a new carrier is another problem. The Yuzhmash plant was originally in charge of heavy missiles. What Russian plant and design bureau can replace it? The list of design bureaus is limited, and the issue is further complicated by a lack of the required industrial capacity. The capacities of the existing plants will have to be substantially increased in a relatively short span of time for the production of a new heavy missile - the service life of Voevoda missiles cannot last forever.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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