Russia Approves Topol-M, Warns Missile Could Defeat U.S. Defense

By Bleek, Philipp C. | Arms Control Today, June 2000 | Go to article overview

Russia Approves Topol-M, Warns Missile Could Defeat U.S. Defense


Bleek, Philipp C., Arms Control Today


A "SPECIAL STATE commission" formally approved the Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile in the final week of April, authorizing deployment of the full planned contingent of Russia's most sophisticated nuclear missile. Russian defense officials expect the new missile to form the core of Russia's strategic nuclear force by the end of the decade-the missile is slated to replace all of Russia's existing land-based nucleararmed strategic missiles.

The Topol-M, designated the SS-27 by the United States, is a three-stage, solid-fueled missile with a reported range in excess of 10,000 kilometers. The missile can be deployed on both silo-based and mobile land-based launch platforms. Roughly similar to the U.S. Minuteman III in capability and sophistication, the Topol-M is deployed with a single warhead with an estimated yield of 550 kilotons, although the missile can be modified to carry at least three warheads.

Topol-M development began in the 1980s, when Soviet military planners anticipated U.S. deployment of missile defenses under the auspices of President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. Defense Ministry sources told the Interfax news agency in April that the Topol-M is equipped with the most up-to-date means for penetrating an anti-ballistic missile defense.

The missile has been tested with a maneuverable re-entry vehicle, which could assist in defeating missile defense interceptors. One of the Topol-M's most notable features is its short engine bum time following take-off, intended to minimize satellite detection of launches and thereby complicate both early warning and interception by missile defense systems during boost phase. The missile also has a relatively flat ballistic trajectory, complicating defense acquisition and interception.

While the Topol-M is currently deployed with a single warhead, Russian defense officials have warned that if the United States abrogates the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Russia may maintain or redeploy multiple-warhead missiles, such as the SS-18, or deploy new missiles, such as the Topol-M, in a multiple-warhead configuration. …

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Russia Approves Topol-M, Warns Missile Could Defeat U.S. Defense
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