Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) test-fired a Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) from the Kapustin Yar testing range in the southern Astrakhan region, the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced on September 26.
“The goal of the launch was to test advanced ballistic missile warheads,” a Russian MoD spokesperson told TASS news agency. The missile’s warhead successfully destroyed a maneuver target at the Sary-Shagan range in Kazakhstan. The data gathered from the launch will be used to develop advanced anti-missile defense penetration aids, the spokesperson added.
The nuclear-capable Topol-M (aka RS12M2/NATO reporting name SS-27) is a three-stage solid fueled ICBM first test launched in 1994. It has a reported maximum range of about 11,000 kilometers (6,835 miles) and can carry a single 550 kiloton nuclear-tipped warhead. The missile can also be upgraded to carry independently targetable warheads. As I explained in January:
Russia has also been developing an upgraded Topol-M variant, the more advanced Topol MR (aka SR-24 Yars/NATO reporting name SS-27 Mod2) first revealed in 2010. The Yars, reportedly fitted with more advanced decoys and countermeasures than the Topol-M, and featuring a higher speed, has been specifically designed to evade Western anti-ballistic missile defense systems.
The Yars can reportedly carry up to ten multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs).The SMF have conducted two Yars ICBM tests in September. Both tests took place at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, in Arkhangelsk Oblast, approximately 800 kilometers north of Moscow. Both tests were a success, according to the Russian MoD. Both the RS12M2 and SR-24 Yars can be deployed from either missile silos or transporter-erector launchers (TELs).
As I reported elsewhere (See: “Russian General: Russia Now Fields 400 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles”):
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.”
The SMF is estimated to operate up to 20 road-mobile and 60 silo-based RS-12M2s,and around 60 mobile and 10 silo-based SR-24 Yars ICBMs. “The Yars will eventually replace older Topol-M models as the SMF’s road-mobile mainstay of its arsenal,” I explained in December 2016.
The SMF is also expected to test their new super-heavy thermonuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) RS-28 Sarmat this October, according to Russian media reports. The Sarmat, reportedly capable of carrying up to ten heavy or 15 (some sources say 16) lighter warheads, will become the mainstay of the Russian Strategic Missile Force’s silo-based ICBM force.