Strategic Rocket Forces
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The Strategic Missile Forces or Strategic Rocket Forces of the Russian Federation or RVSN RF are a separate troops branch of the Russian Armed Forces that controls Russia's land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The RVSN was first formed in the Soviet Armed Forces, and when the USSR collapsed in December 1991, it effectively changed its name from the Soviet to the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces or Strategic Missile Troops.
|Strategic Missile Forces|
|Ракетные войска стратегического назначения|
Raketnye voyska strategicheskogo naznacheniya
|Founded||17 December 1959|
|Country|| Russia (1992–present)|
Commonwealth of Independent States (1991–1992)
Soviet Union (1959–1991)
|Branch||Russian Armed Forces|
|Type||Strategic missile force|
|Role||Strategic Missile Deterrence|
|Size||50,000 personnel (2020)|
|Headquarters||Vlasikha, 2.5 km northwest of Odintsovo, Moscow Oblast|
|Patron||Saint Barbara the Great Martyr|
|Motto(s)||"После нас - тишина" ("After us - silence")|
|March||Artillery March (Марш Артиллеристов) by Tikhon Khrennikov|
|Equipment||Ballistic missiles, cruise missiles|
|Engagements||Cuban Missile Crisis|
|Col. Gen. Sergei Karakayev|
|Marshal Igor Sergeyev|
The Strategic Missile Forces were created on December 17, 1959 as the main force used for attacking an enemy's offensive nuclear weapons, military facilities, and industrial infrastructure. They operated all Soviet nuclear ground-based intercontinental, intermediate-range ballistic missile, and medium-range ballistic missile with ranges over 1,000 kilometers. Complementary strategic forces within Russia are the Long Range Aviation and the Russian Navy's ballistic missile submarines, all of which form Russia's nuclear triad.
After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, assets of the Strategic Rocket Forces were in the territories of several new states, including armed nuclear missile silos in Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine. Three of them transferred their missiles to Russia for destruction and all joined the Non-proliferation Treaty.
The first Soviet rocket study unit was established in June 1946, by redesignating the 92nd Guards Mortar Regiment at Bad Berka in East Germany as the 22nd Brigade for Special Use of the Reserve of the Supreme High Command. On October 18, 1947 the brigade conducted the first launch of the remanufactured former German A-4 ballistic missile, or R-1, from the Kapustin Yar Range. In the early 1950s the 77th and 90th Brigades were also formed to operate the R-1 (SS-1a 'Scunner'). The 54th and 56th Brigades were formed to conduct test launches of the R-2 (SS-2 'Sibling') at Kapustin Yar on June 1, 1952.
From 1959 the Soviets introduced a number of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) into service, including the R-12 (SS-4 'Sandal'), the R-7 (SS-6 'Sapwood'), the R-16 (SS-7 'Saddler'), the R-9 (SS-8 'Sasin'), the R-26 (given the NATO reporting name SS-8 'Sasin' due to incorrect identification as the R-9), the R-36 (SS-9 'Scarp'), and the RT-21 (SS-16 'Sinner'), which was possibly never made fully operational. By 1990 all these early types of missiles had been retired from service. This was the very year that the Strategic Missile Forces were officially established as a service branch of the Armed Forces under the direct control of the Defense Ministry. The date of its formal foundation, December 17, is celebrated as Strategic Missile Forces Day.
During a test of the R-16 ICBM on October 24, 1960, the test missile exploded on the pad, killing the first commander of the SRF, Chief Marshal of Artillery Mitrofan Ivanovich Nedelin. This disaster, the details of which were concealed for decades, became known as the Nedelin catastrophe. He was succeeded by Marshal of the Soviet Union Kirill Moskalenko, who in turn was succeeded quickly by Marshal Sergey Biryuzov. Under Marshal Вiryuzov the SRF deployed missiles to Cuba in 1962 as part of Operation Anadyr. 36 R-12 intermediate range ballistic missiles were sent to Cuba, initiating the Cuban Missile Crisis. The 43rd Guards Missile Division of 43rd Rocket Army manned the missiles while in Cuba.
Marshal Nikolai Krylov then took over in March 1963 and served until February 1972. During this time French President Charles de Gaulle visited the Strategic Missile Forces in 1966. Together with NI Krylov, he visited a missile division in Novosibirsk, and then at the invitation of Leonid Brezhnev participated in a demonstration missile launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Kazakh SSR. Chief Marshal of Artillery Vladimir Fedorovich Tolubko commanded the SRF from April 12, 1972 to July 10, 1985. Tolubko emphasised raising the physical fitness standards within the SRF. He was succeeded by General of the Army Yury Pavlovich Maksimov, who commanded from July 10, 1985 to August 19, 1992.
According to a 1980 TIME Magazine article citing analysts from RAND Corporation, Soviet non-Slavs were generally barred from joining the Strategic Missile Forces because of suspicions of loyalty of ethnic minorities to the Kremlin.
In 1989 the Strategic Missile Forces had over 1,400 ICBMs, 300 launch control centers, and twenty-eight missile bases. The SMT also operated RSD-10 (SS-20 'Saber') intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) and R-12 (SS-4 'Sandal') medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs). Two-thirds of the road-mobile Soviet RSD-10 force was based in the western Soviet Union and was aimed at Western Europe. One-third of the force was located east of the Ural Mountains and was targeted primarily against China. Older R-12 missiles were deployed at fixed sites in the western Soviet Union. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in December 1987, called for the elimination of all 553 Soviet RSD-10 and R-12 missiles within three years. As of mid-1989, over 50% of RSD-10 and R-12 missiles had been eliminated.
By 1990 the Soviet Union had seven types of operational ICBMs; about 50% were heavy R-36M (SS-18 'Satan') and UR-100N (SS-19 'Stiletto') ICBMs, which carried 80% of the country's land-based ICBM warheads. By this time it was also producing new mobile, and hence survivable ICBMs, the RT-23 (SS-24 'Scalpel') and RT-2PM (SS-25 'Sickle'). In 1990, with the R-12 apparently fully retired, the IISS reported that there were 350 UR-100s (SS-11 'Sego,' Mod 2/3), 60 RT-2s (SS-13 'Savage') still in service in one missile field, 75 UR-100MRs (SS-17 'Spanker,' Mod 3, with 4 MIRV), 308 R-36Ms (mostly Mod 4 with 10 MIRV), 320 UR-100Ns (mostly Mod 3 with 6 MIRV), some 60 RT-23s (silo and rail-mobile), and some 225 RT-2PMs (mobile).
Composition of the Strategic Missile Forces 1960–1991
|Formation||Headquarters Location||Year formed as Corps||Year formed as Army||Year disbanded||Divisions|
|27th Guards Rocket Army||HQ Vladimir, Moscow Military District||01.09.59||1970||Still active||7th Guards Rocket Division, 28th Guards Rocket Division, (32 ), 54th Guards Rocket Division, 60th Rocket Division|
|31st Rocket Army||Orenburg, Urals Military District||05.09.65||1970||Still active||8th, 13th, 14th, (41st Guards), 42nd, 50, 52nd, (55), 59|
|33rd Guards Rocket Army||Omsk, Siberian Military District||1962||1970||Still active||23, (34), 35th, 36th Guards, 38, 39th Guards, 57, 62|
|43rd Rocket Army||Vinnitsa, Kiev Military District||–||1960||May 8, 1996||19 (Khmelnitsky), 37th Guards (Lutsk), 43 (Kremenchug), 44 (Kolomyia, Ivano-Frankovsk Oblast, disbanded March 1990; 46 (Pervomaisk, Mykolaiv Oblast)|
|50th Rocket Army||Smolensk, Belorussian Military District||–||1960||June 30, 1990||1988: 7th Guards, 24th Guards (Gvardeysk, Kaliningrad Oblast), 31st Guards (former 83rd Guards Bryansko-Berlinskaya Aviation (Missile) Division, renumbered July 1, 1960), 32nd (Postavy, Vitebsk Oblast), 40th, 49th Guards (Lida, Grodno Region, 1963 to 1990), 58th (Karmelava, Lithuania)|
|53rd Rocket Army||Chita, Transbaikal Military District||1962||June 8, 1970||Sept. 16, 2002||1988: 4th Rocket Division (Drovyanaya, Chita Oblast), 23rd Guards Rocket Division (Kansk, assigned 1983–2002), 27th Rocket Division (Svobodnyy, Amur Oblast), 29th, 36th Guards, 47th Rocket Division (Olovyannaya, Chita Oblast)|
Like most of the Russian military, the Strategic Missile Forces have had limited access to resources for new equipment in the Yeltsin era. However, the Russian government has made a priority of ensuring that the Missile Forces receive new missiles to phase out older, less-reliable systems, and to incorporate newer capabilities in the face of international threats to the viability of the nuclear deterrent effect provided by their missiles, in particular the development of missile defense systems in the United States.
In 1995, the decree of the President of Russia No. 1239 from December 10, 1995 "On establishing the Day of the Strategic Missile Forces Day and Military Space Forces Day" was promulgated. On July 16, 1997, President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree incorporating the Russian Space Forces and the Space Missile Defence Forces (Russian: Ракетно-космической обороны) into the SMT. In doing so, 'nearly 60' military units and establishments were dissolved. However, four years later, on June 1, 2001, the Russian Space Forces were reformed as a separate branch of service from the SMT.
Minister of Defence Marshal of the Russian Federation Igor Sergeev, a former commander of the SMT from August 19, 1992 – May 22, 1997, played a major role in assuring funding for his former service. He was succeeded by General of the Army Vladimir Yakovlev, who commanded the SMT from June 1997 until April 27, 2001. Yakovlev was succeeded by Colonel General Nikolay Solovtsov, appointed the same day. In early 2009 Solovtsov said that 96% of all Russian ICBMs are ready to be launched within a minute's notice. Solovtsov was dismissed in turn in July–August 2009. Speculation over why Solovtsov was dismissed includes opposition to further cuts in deployed nuclear ballistic missile warheads below the April 2009 figure of 1,500, the fact that he had reached the retirement age of 60, despite that he had recently been extended another year's service, or the failure of the Navy's Bulava missile). After only a year, Lieutenant General Andrey Shvaichenko, appointed on August 3, 2009 by President Dmitry Medvedev, was replaced himself. The current commander of the Strategic Missile Forces, Colonel General Sergei Karakayev, was appointed to the post by a presidential decree of June 22, 2010.
RVSN headquarters has a special sledgehammer that can be used to gain access to the launch codes if the commander feels the need to use it or if ordered directly, but doesn't have normal access to the safe. In 2020, the Strategic Missile Forces completed switching to digital information transmission technology.
Composition since 2010sEdit
Female cadets have now started to join the Peter the Great Strategic Missile Forces Academy. RVSN institutes also exist at Serpukhov and Rostov-on-Don. An ICBM test impact range is located in the Far East, the Kura Test Range, although this has been under Aerospace Defence Forces' command since 2010.
The Strategic Missile Forces operate four distinct missile systems. The oldest system is the silo-based R-36M2 / SS-18 Satan which carries ten warheads, the last missile will be in service until 2020. The second system is the silo-based UR-100NUTTH / SS-19 Stiletto, the last missiles in service with six warheads each will be removed by 2019. The single warhead mobile RT-2PM Topol / SS-25 Sickle are planned to be decommissioned by 2019. A new missile entering service is the RT-2UTTH Topol-M / SS-27 Sickle B with single warhead, from which 60 are silo-based and 18 are mobile. Some new missiles will be added in the future. First upgraded Topol-M called RS-24 Yars, carrying three warheads, was commissioned in 2010 and in July 2011 the first mobile regiment with nine missiles was completed. From 2012 to 2017, about 80 ICBMs were placed in active duty. RF Defense Minister said in May 2021 that 86% of the country’s nuclear forces was modern.
The composition of missiles and warheads of the Strategic Missile Forces previously had to be revealed as part of the START I treaty data exchange. The most recently reported (January 2020) order of battle of the forces is as follows:
- 27th Guards Rocket Army (HQ: Vladimir)
- 98th Separate Mixed Aviation Squadron
- 7th Guards Rocket Division at Vypolzovo with 18 mobile RT-2PM Topol
- 14th Rocket Division at Yoshkar-Ola with 27 mobile RS-24 Yars
- 28th Guards Rocket Division at Kozelsk with 15 (January 2020) silo-based RS-24
- 54th Guards Rocket Division at Teykovo with 18 mobile RT-2UTTH Topol-M and 18 (December 2011) mobile RS-24
- 60th Rocket Division at Tatischevo with 30 silo-based UR-100NUTTH and 60 silo-based RT-2UTTH Topol-M
- 31st Rocket Army (HQ: Rostoshi)
- 102nd Separate Mixed Aviation Squadron
- 8th Rocket Division at Pervomaysky, Kirov Oblast
- 13th Red Banner Rocket Division at Dombarovskiy with 18 silo-based R-36M2 and 4 (December 2020) UR-100NUTTH with Avangard (hypersonic glide vehicle)s (Project 4202). The R-36s will be replaced with the new RS-28 Sarmat when operational.
- 42nd Rocket Division at Nizhniy Tagil with 27 mobile RS-24 Yars
- 33rd Guards Rocket Army (HQ: Omsk)
- 105th Separate Mixed Aviation Squadron
- 29th Guards Rocket Division at Irkutsk with 27 mobile RS-24 Yars
- 35th Rocket Division at Barnaul with mobile RT-2PM Topol and RS-24 Yars
- 39th Guards Rocket Division at Novosibirsk with 27 mobile RS-24 Yars
- 62nd Rocket Division at Uzhur with 28 silo-based R-36M2, which will also replaced with the new RS-28 Sarmat when operational.
Numbers of missiles and warheadsEdit
The Strategic Missile Forces have:
- 46 silo-based R-36M2 (SS-18) with up to 10 warheads, to be retired 2022
- less than 45 mobile RT-2PM "Topol" (SS-25) with 1 warhead, flagged for future retirement
- 60 silo-based RT-2UTTH "Topol M" (SS-27) with 1 warhead
- 18 mobile RT-2UTTH "Topol M" (SS-27) with 1 warhead
- 15 silo-based RS-24 "Yars" (SS-29) with up to 4 warheads
- 135+ mobile RS-24 "Yars" (SS-29) with up to 4 warheads
Obsolete weapons and equipmentEdit
Medium-range ballistic missilesEdit
- R-12 Dvina, SS-4 Sandel - In service from 1959 to 1993.
Intermediate-range ballistic missilesEdit
- R-14 Chusovaya, SS-5 Skean - In service from 1962 to 1984.
- RSD-10 Pioneer, SS-20 Sabre, SS-23 Sabre 2 - In service from 1976 to 1988.
Intercontinental-range ballistic missilesEdit
- MR-UR-100 Sotka, SS-17 Spanker - In service from 1975 to 1995.
- R-7 Semyorka, SS-6 Sapwood - In service from 1959 to 1968.
- R-9 Desna, SS-8 Sasin - In service from 1964 to 1976.
- R-16, SS-7 Saddler - In service from 1961 to 1976.
- RT-2, SS-13 Savage - In service from 1968 to 1976.
- RT-20P, SS-15 Scrooge - In service from 1961 to 1962.
- RT-21 Temp 2S, SS-16 Sinner - In service from 1976 to 1986.
- RT-23 Molodets, SS-24 Scalpel - In service from 1987 to 2005.
- UR-100, SS-11 Sego - In service from 1967 to 1974.
- UR-200, SS-10 Scrag - In service from 1963 to 1964.
Ranks and rank insigniaEdit
- Officer ranks
|Rank group||National rank||General/flag officers||Field/senior officers||Junior officers||Officer cadet|
| Russian Strategic Rocket Forces
|Marshal of the Russian Federation
Ма́ршал Росси́йской Федера́ции
- Other ranks
|Rank group||National rank||General/flag officers||Field/senior officers||Junior officers||Officer cadet|
| Russian Strategic Rocket Forces
|Senior warrant officer
According to the Federation of American Scientists, for the foreseeable future, all new Russian ICBM deployments will be of MIRVed versions of the SS-27 "Topol-M", although a “new ICBM” and a “heavy ICBM” are also being developed. By the early 2020s, according to announcements by Russian military officials, all SS-18 and SS-25 ICBMs will be retired from service following the retirements of the SS-19 systems. This development would leave a Russian ICBM force structure based on five modifications of the solid-fuel SS-27 (silo- and mobile-based SS-27 Mod 1 (Topol-M); silo- and mobile-based SS-27 Mod 2 (RS-24 Yars); and the RS-26 Rubezh) and the liquid-fuel RS-28 Sarmat with a large payload – either MIRV or some advanced payload to evade missile defense systems. Although the future force will be smaller, a greater portion of it will be MIRVed – up from approximately 36 percent in 2014 to roughly 70 percent by 2024.
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