Dodgy Russian Warhead

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 14, 2005 | Go to article overview

Dodgy Russian Warhead


Byline: James Hackett, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

You would think the Cold War never ended. Last week, the Russian press was full of pride and praise for the successful Nov. 1 flight test of a Topol-M strategic missile, which for the first time carried three independently targetable nuclear warheads (MIRVs), and included the test ofa new maneuvering warhead.

Breathless reports from Moscow proclaimed the maneuvering hypersonic warhead is "virtually impossible to destroy" by America's land-based missile defense. Designed for launch on an SS-27 Topol-M missile from a silo or self-propelled launcher, the "glide warhead" has divert engines that fire in a "chaotic manner" to make it "skip about." This, say reports, will prevent U.S. missile defenses from shooting it down.

Russian generals who spent decades trying to save the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and opposing U.S. missile defenses now accept those defenses' deployment, but are trying to neutralize them with mobile missiles and multiple maneuvering warheads. Moscow's political leaders fund these new strategic weapons to boost national pride and win the support of those who bemoan the loss of empire and national prestige, ignoring the inconvenient fact the U.S. does not intend to attack Russia.

The centerpiece of Moscow's new strategic force is the off-road mobile SS-27 missile with multiple maneuvering warheads. For several years, Russia has produced single-warhead SS-27s and deployed them in silos. Forty-six have been fielded. The mobile version, harder to find and target, will be deployed beginning next year. A high-acceleration solid-fuel missile, it will be difficult to intercept in the boost phase, and the maneuvering warhead will make it hard to stop thereafter.

The plan is to refit each of the SS-27s in silos with three maneuvering warheads, then put 350 more SS-27s with multiple warheads on mobile launchers to replace the SS-25s being phased out. Multiple maneuvering warheads also will be installed on the new Bulava-30 missiles that will be carried on the new Borey-class missile-firing submarines. And Moscow's strategic triad will continue as its Tu-95 and Tu-160 bombers now carry hypersonic cruise missiles that travel 2,000 miles and strike with great accuracy.

Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov announced last week an increase of 54 billion rubles in the 2006 defense budget, with plans for "new submarines, missile platforms and [nuclear] weapons with multiple warheads.

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