Strategic Weapons: January 8, 2004

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Russia revealed that it had cut funding for production of it's new Topol-M (SS-27) ICBMs three years ago, after putting three regiments into service. Topol-M entered service in 1998, and production only resumed in 2003. Another regiment (of ten missiles) was activated last month when six missiles were declared in service. The Topol-M is a silo based version of the lighter, mobile, Topol (SS-25) ICBM. The Topol was the first successful solid fuel ICBM missile Russia was been able to deploy. It is comparable to the 1960s era U.S. Minuteman ICBMs. Solid fuel is tricky to manufacture, and after many abortive attempts, the Russians stuck with liquid fuel until the 1980s. They finally perfected their solid fuel technology in the 1990s, with the successful test launch of the 45 ton Topol in 1985. The 52 ton Topol-M followed ten years later. Both missiles have a range of 10,500 kilometers. The Topol-M is more reliable, especially compared to the mobile Topol, which often developed reliability problems when it was moved by truck or train, and then fired. It is thought that the Topol-M is still having reliability problems as well, as Russia recently announced that it would refurbish and keep in service some older SS-18 ICBMs. The official reason given for this is money, as the Topol-Ms cost $52 million each. But there have been persistent rumors about Topol reliability.

 


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