Russia’s Strategic Missile Troops (SMT) announced yesterday the successful test-firing of an RS-12M Topol intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). According to the SMT press service, the missile was launched from the Russian cosmodrome at Plesetsk in northern Russia and hit a target in the Kamchatka area of Russia’s Far East. The press service said that the missile test “once again convincingly proves the high combat readiness of the forces and the reliability and technical readiness of its intercontinental ballistic missiles of this type” (AP, Russian agencies, September 16).
The Topol-M–designated the SS-27 by NATO–is a single-warhead missile which Moscow intends to deploy as a replacement for its other aging ICBMs. The Russian government has announced plans to procure ten of these missiles per year for the next two years and then to increase production to thirty-one annually. Russia is unlikely to meet this ambitious production schedule, however. Even if that plan is fulfilled, the country would still be able to field only about 360 of these weapons by 2010. By that time, the service life of most of Russia’s other strategic launchers–currently numbering about 750–will have long expired (see the Monitor, February 20, July 8).
QUESTION MARKS IN MOSCOW OVER NORTH KOREAN MISSILE TEST.