|The Topol-M is a 3-stage solid-fuel missile with a length of 17.9m (not including the 3.3m forward section which contains the payload), a diameter of 1.86m, and launch weight of 47.2 metric tons. Like the majority of Soviet missiles, it was designed to be deployed and maintained in a launch canister. Both the silo-based and mobile variants have been designed for cold launch. It has a maximum range in excess of 10,000km.
The Topol-M is reputed to have the highest accuracy of any Russian ICBM. One source indicates that its "maximum deviation" ("predelnoye otkloneniye"), defined as the radius in which over 99% of all warheads will impact and estimated to be 2.3 times larger than the missile's Circular Error Probable, is less than 500 meters, although other sources give a "maximum deviation" value of 800m. The missile's accuracy is ensured by an autonomous inertial guidance system, and there are reports that it may be aided by a satellite navigation system. The missile is capable of rapid (2 minutes) launch preparation. One of the service life-extending characteristics of this missile is that its guidance gyroscopes do not need to be switched on until immediately after the launch. The Topol-M carries a single warhead developed by the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Experimental Physics (VNIIEF) in Sarov (formerly Arzamas-16). Its yield is unknown, although it is believed that it is close to 1 MT.
Although a single-warhead missile, the Topol-M has comparatively large throw-weight of 1.2 metric tons, which has led to speculation that the missile could be MIRVed in the future with three or even six warheads. Such a possibility was mentioned by the SRF commander, General Vladimir Yakovlev, and the missile's chief designer, Lev Solomonov, has confirmed that the Topol-M has the design potential for uploading, although such step would require some modifications. It is not yet clear whether Russia will pursue that option. Since the missile was designed from the start in a single-warhead configuration, MIRVing the Topol-M would involve some re-design work and could not be accomplished as quickly as uploading older US or Russian missiles, which were designed as multi-warhead weapons from the outset. However, Russia might seek the right to MIRV its Topol-Ms under START III, arguing that placing three warheads per missile would not undermine the strategic balance, particularly when concerning mobile missiles filling the same niche as SLBMs.
The large throw-weight could also be explained by greater warhead weight, precision-guidance capability, or defense penetration aids. The missile's design is believed to incorporate many features improving its ABM defense penetration ability, and to possess built-in potential for further upgrades in this area. According to some estimates, it carries more decoys and penetration aids than the 10-warhead Peacekeeper (MX) missile and is equipped with a hardened warhead invulnerable to all but direct hits by ABM interceptors. The warhead may also have independent maneuvering and precision-guidance capability. The seventh Topol-M test launch, conducted on 3 June 1999, featured a "lateral antimissile maneuver", with the warhead reportedly being guided to its destination by a Glonass-based "Terminator" satellite navigation system. Finally, thanks to its powerful first-stage boosters, the Topol-M has a short-duration boost phase (shorter by a factor of 4.5 than boost phases of older ICBMs such as the SS-18, which has a five-minute boost phase), which reduces its vulnerability to boost-phase intercept weapons. The missile's greater acceleration also allows it to assume a flatter trajectory, further reducing vulnerability to space-based weapons. The Topol-M also features a high degree of survivability against attack while on the ground. The silo-based version has been reported to be able to withstand a direct nuclear warhead hit on its silo, and the missile itself is hardened against EMP.