New Russian strategic weapon systems

By Dmitry Kornev 

In his address to the Federal Assembly on 1st March 2018, President of Russia Vladimir Putin told about several newest strategic weapon systems developed in Russia.


Aircraft missile system “Kinzhal”


RS-28 “Sarmat” 

In his speech, the President told that the Ministry of Defence and aerospace manufacturers had started an active phase of testing of a new missile system with the heavy intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) “Sarmat”. This missile system is being developed to replace the missile system with the heavy ICBM “Voevoda”, which is supposed to be the most powerful missile in the world for the time being. With its launch weight over 200 tons, the new missile will have a short boost phase. This will hamper the computation of its trajectory for the potential enemy’s missile launch monitoring systems, and, therefore, the response of anti-missile systems. The new missile increased power capacity allows to use a wide and extended range of combat equipment variants. No doubt, the “Sarmat” missile's payload will include controlled warheads. Moreover, NPO Mashinostroyenia, one of the co-developers of the “Sarmat” missile, has been working for years to develop such hypersonic warheads. Increased power capabilities of the “Sarmat” missile allow to hit targets, flying along any trajectories, including global ones, i.e. not only along the shortest path, but also over the South Pole. This gives an opportunity to attack the potential enemy from directions that are not protected by anti-missile defence systems.

In the Presidential Address on 1st March 2018, the beginning of drop tests of the new ICBM at Plesetsk state testing cosmodrome was confirmed. We watched the video showing the pop-up launch from a refitted silo launcher. Drop test are highly likely to be continued in the coming months – it is assumed that before fight tests, three pop-up launches of test missiles should be completed. After that, the system and missile will pass flight and structural tests followed by state tests. Depending on test results, the missile system will be put into service by the Russian Strategic Missile Forces. According to the initial plans, the system is expected to be put into service by 2024, but the latest data prove that the missile will be put into service before the scheduled date, by 2021.

Academician V.P. Makeyev State Rocket Centre (Miass) is the lead developer of the new missile system.


Another newly developed system for the Russian Strategic Missile Forces is a new warhead for strategic missile systems such as “Avangard” hypersonic glider warhead. The President announced that the system had successfully passed tests; the first successful launch was carried out during the 2004 strategic nuclear forces exercises. It is a controlled object able to perform a coasting flight in the upper atmosphere at a speed of more than 20 M, while making a compound maneuver changing its course and altitude. Such an object will be a very complicated target for the existing anti-missile defence systems due to its unpredictable trajectory and lack of possibilities for computing the object's kill point by means of antimissiles.

Composite materials are used for the structure of such an object, which allow to solve the problem relating to a long-term flight in the atmosphere at high speeds when the vehicle surface is heated up to 1,600 – 2,000 Celsius degrees.

The codename “Avangard” is highly likely to conceal the system that, according to media sources, is mainly known as "Object 4202” (15Yu71) developed by NPO Mashinostroyenia (Reutov). Actually, this object made its first successful test flight in 2004, and on 1st March 2018 the President announced the start of large-scale production of the unique combat system.

Nuclear cruise missile 

Probably, an unlimited-range cruise missile equipped with a small-size heavy-duty nuclear power plant (NPP) has become the hottest news. It has been reported that a cruise equipped with NPP was successfully launched at the Central Test Site of the Russian Federation at the end of 2017. In the course of flight, NPP reached the specified power and ensured the desired missile propulsive power. Completed flight tests together with ground tests allow to develop a new-type strategic nuclear weapon system equipped with a cruise missile powered by NPP.

We are talking about the Central Test Site of 12th Main Directorate of the Ministry of Defence on Novaya Zemlya, which is the main nuclear test site in our country. Taking into account the distinctive features of the new missile, the missile is supposed to be launched, flown and dropped within the nuclear test site.

The appearance of such military equipment indicates the development of the unique small-size nuclear power plant. This may be estimated as real breakthrough in the field. Such a missile is equipped with an entirely new type of the engine, which uses the atmospheric air heated by NPP as the mass carrier. As the solution for developing such an engine has been found, of course, it is technically possible to develop an unlimited-range cruise missile which will provide the unique combat capabilities.

No doubt, such a weapon system will carry a nuclear warhead and can be used only as the strategic nuclear deterrent system.


Новые российские стратег системы вооружен_2

Another piece of news announced in March 2018 – Russia has developed a high-precision hypersonic airborne missile system which was put on combat alert in a test mode at aerodromes of the South Military District on 1st December 2017. It is the “Kinzhal” system featuring a carrier aircraft based on the MiG-31BM fighter-interceptor and an airborne platform ballistic missile based on ballistic missile 9М723 used for the “Iskander-M” system. Together with a high-speed missile-carrying aircraft, such a missile is really able to reach a speed of 10 M and to hit targets at a distance of up to 2,000 km from the carrier’s base airfield. This system may be used to hit targets with known coordinates, and, taking into account the availability of radar homing guidance system, to hit radiocontrast targets or even moving targets.

We should note that the ballistic missile of this type mainly flies in the upper atmosphere and its flight is practically similar to the flight of the ground prototype. The unique feature of the system is the high-precision prompt strike with an option for strategic maneuver – long-range transferring of missile-carrying aircraft. The existing air defence and anti-missile defence systems are not able to prevent such a strike.

Underwater drones

In his speech, the President of Russia described in detail works on the program for developing robotized underwater vehicles with nuclear power plants also known as the “Kanyon” system in the West.

Development of an unmanned deepwater vehicle with a small-size nuclear power plant dates back to the 1980s. Now we know that the long-term program for testing the small-size NPP has been successfully completed in December 2017. Russia has developed the NPP, the volume of which is 100 times lower than the volume of NPP installed onboard modern nuclear-powered submarines. The new NPP offers greater power and acceleration to reach the maximum power.

This achievement allows to develop the conceptually new type of strategic weapon armed with high-power nuclear munitions for the system which is reported as the Status-6 system. Central Design Bureau for Marine Engineering “Rubin” (St. Petersburg) is the lead developer of underwater drones. The drone-carrier test submarine B-90 “Sarov” took part in testing of the system.

On completing the development of NPP, it is possible to develop such a combat system and to achieve the unique design performance. Now, Production Association “Sevmash” (Severodvinsk) is building the submarines “Belgorod” and “Khabarovsk”, which are expected to become underwater drone carriers.

Laser system

In his speech, the President of Russia briefly mentioned combat laser systems supplied to armed forces since 2017. The purpose of laser systems shown during the presidential address is still unknown, but we can guess these are the systems able to damage optical equipment installed in enemy’s reconnaissance unmanned and manned aerial vehicles.

For laser systems, hitting real airplanes or missiles is still the unsolved problem. Although, using the above-mentioned small-size high-power NPPs, the progress in this field of development can be achieved. Design overall dimensions of the laser device for hitting aircraft should be considerably larger. Destroying optical systems is a reasonable and technically solvable problem, and laser systems are the best solution.

Of course, in his speech on 1st March 2018, the President of Russia did not mention all innovative and breakthrough weapon system development programs Russia's military and industrial complex is working on. We saw only a few unique and really amazing military and technical programs, which can bring vital changes in modern strategic nuclear forces. In the coming years, we will witness development of these programs and their influence on the global balance of forces. 


New defence order. Strategy | 05 | 2018 

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