Russia’s Strategic Missile Force (SMF) currently consists of 400 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), SMF commander, Colonel-General Sergei Karakayev told TASS News Agency on December 15. “At present, the Strategic Missile Force grouping comprises about 400 intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads of various categories of their capacity,” Karakayev said.
Furthermore, “99 percent of launchers in the Strategic Missile Force grouping are kept in a combat-ready state,” the general added.
Independent assessments in 2015 estimated that Russia has around 300 ICBMs deployed with a little over 1,000 warheads. According to an April 2016 estimate by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “Russia deploys an estimated 307 ICBMs that can carry approximately 1040 warheads, nearly 40 percent of the country’s total strategic warheads.”
As I reported previously, the Russian government announced its intention in 2015 to add around 40 new ICBMs per year (“Russia to Add 40 New ICBMs: Should the West Be Worried?”). The discrepancy between the independent estimates cited above and Karakayev statement could indeed imply that Russia succeeded in increasing its ICBM arsenal.
“The emphasis in developing the Strategic Missile Force’s perspective strike grouping will be made on its qualitative transformation and a considerable increase in the share of modern missile systems,” the commander said in the interview.
“In the final account, the Strategic Missile Force will have a balanced structure and operate an optimal number of missiles designated to solve the diverse tasks of ensuring nuclear containment and Russia’s security.”
Furthermore, Karakayev said that he expects the super-heavy thermonuclear-armed ICBM RS-28 Sarmat to be operational by 2019-2020.
“Alongside the gradual withdrawal of the Voyevoda [ RS-36M] missile from service the strategic missile system Sarmat will be authorized for service and go operational. The Sarmat is a silo-based liquid propellant heavy missile. The estimated date when it may enter duty is 2019-2020,” he explained. “The decisions made by now [is to] keep the Voyevoda complex till 2022.”
The RS-28 is slated to eventually replace all Soviet era RS-36M ICBMs by the end of the next decade. Both the RS-28 and RS-36M are silo-based missile systems. As I explained elsewhere (See: “Russia Unveils 1st Image of New Intercontinental Ballistic Missile”), the RS-28 will reportedly be able to carry ten heavy or 15 (some sources say 16) lighter warheads.
The commander of the SMF also addressed the road-mobile nuclear-capable Topol-M (aka RS12M2/NATO reporting name SS-27) and the more advanced Topol MR (aka SR-24 Yars/NATO reporting name SS-27 Mod2) in the interview:
The Yars design specifics allow for launches from the sites, on which the Topol could assume combat duty only after special engineering re-equipment. Improvements have been made to the characteristics of communications means and the chassis and the missile itself has become more powerful and actually invulnerable to the enemy’s existing missile shield systems. The Yars missile warhead has also changed qualitatively.
The Yars will eventually replace older Topol-M models as the SMF’s road-mobile mainstay of its arsenal.
Furthermore, Karakayev announced that Russia will conduct more than ten ICBM test launches in 2017.