Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF) are celebrating their 38th birthday today, and, while they, like all the armed forces, have been forced to make cuts in both personnel and equipment, they remain in the best shape of any military service. The unexpected installation of former SRF commander in chief Igor Sergeev in the post of Defense Minister has not hurt the service’s fortunes. As the first step in his plan to reform the military, Sergeev, who was recently promoted to Marshal, has pulled the Military Space Troops and the ABM early warning and missile forces of the Air Defense Troops into the SRF. (Russian media, December 16)
Later this month the first regiment of Russia’s newest Topol-M ICBMs will become operational at a former SS-19 missile base near Tatishchevo in the Saratov region. (Russian media, December 11) The new missile is an improved version of the single-warhead SS-25 and will be deployed both in silos and on mobile launchers. Unlike any of the other missiles in the Russian inventory, the Topol-M is built completely in Russia. Production of the new missile is bound to be constrained by a paucity of funds, but ultimately several hundred are to be deployed, including 90 in silos that now contain the giant 10-warhead SS-18 missiles.
This forced conversion from multi- to single-warhead missiles required by the START II treaty has been one of the factors that has held up the treaty’s ratification in the Russian Duma. The many opponents of the treaty believe that this puts Russia at a strategic disadvantage vis-a-vis the United States. In an effort to ease this opposition, the U.S. earlier this year signed an agreement with Russia that will stretch out the reduction period of the treaty so that the SRF will not have to retire all of its most powerful SS-18 missiles for another decade.
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