Strategic Weapons: Topol-M Takes a Train to Nowhere


December12, 2006: Three more Russian Topol-M (SS-27) ICBMs are entering service this month. That will mean 48 (of, eventually, up to a hundred) Topol-Ms in service by the end of the year. One of the Topol-Ms being delivered is a mobile model, which is carried in a special railroad car, and moved around to avoid destruction by an enemy surprise missile attack. More mobile Topol-Ms will be delivered next year. Some of the older Topol (SS-25) missiles are already serving in the mobile mode.

The Topol-M is an upgraded Topol. Both are comparable to the American Minuteman III, and both carry only one warhead, although they could carry as many as six warheads per missile. The 45 ton SS-25 entered service in 1985, and was so successful (meaning reliable, partly because it used solid fuel), that work began on an upgrade. This became the 52 ton Topol-M. All other Russian ICBMs suffered reliability problems and were more expensive to maintain, largely because of liquid fuel rocket engines and cranky electronics.


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