"Russia Breaks US Missile Defense"
New Russian Warhead 'Capable of Penetrating
Any Missile Defense'
The RS-12M1 Topol-M
Report by Kommersant journalist
Ivan Safronov and Alina Chernoivanova
Russia has acquired yet another advantage in the undeclared arms race: Russian missile troops have successfully tested a warhead capable of penetrating any missile defense, including the American one. Now it is the United States' call: American designers are trying to defend the country from space.
Yesterday evening the Russian Strategic Missile Troops (RSVN) successfully tested a warhead capable of overcoming any missile defense. The launch of the RS-12M1 Topol-M ICBM from the Kapustin Yar (Astrakhan Oblast) test site has virtually made the $100 billion or so the United States has already spent on developing its impenetrable missile defense system a waste of money.
At less cost Russian designers have shown their American counterparts that the ideal missile defense does not exist.
Work on the mobile RS-12M1 Topol-M mobile off-road-capable missile system began in Russia in 2000 in parallel with work on the silo-launched RS12M2 version. Since then the RSVN have carried out five test launches of these missiles -- all from the Plesetsk cosmodrome. The last launch was 20 April 2004, when the RS-12M1 Topol-M was launched to its maximum range -- the warhead came down in the Pacific Ocean to the North of Hawaii, 11,000 kilometers from where the missile was launched.
But those tests entailed no particular danger to missile defense systems Improved specifications had given the Topol-M definite advantages. Thus, because of the missile's small powered flight phase (the engine does not operate for as long as the Satana's) it was harder for missile attack warning systems to intercept it. In addition the Topol-M travels at high speed, that is it leaves the launch site more rapidly and reaches its
target more rapidly. But nonetheless there was no fundamental difference from the ICBM's Russia had been using since cold war times. The warhead would go into free-fall, which made possible its interception by missile defense facilities.
The latest test has shown other possibilities for the Topol-M: The missile was launched for minimum range, but with a new warhead. The missile troops checked a warhead capable of maneuvering along the flight trajectory. Launched from the Kapustin Yar test range, the missile aimed its nosecone in the direction of Balkhash (Kazakhstan). After separating from the missile, at the final stage of its flight the warhead carried out a maneuver (tracked by Russian observation devices) and fell at the designated point. That meant the maneuvering had not worsened the warhead's precision specifications but had misled the missile defense system -- making its interception and destruction virtually impossible. The likelihood that the Topol-M will strike its target has been increased to almost 90%.
RSVN units will start to be equipped with mobile Topol-M missiles with the new warheads in 2006.
The state defense order for 2006 provides for three such launchers for the 54th division (Teykovo, Ivanovo Oblast). The silo-launched Topol-M missiles will also gradually be switched to the new maneuvering warheads (the 60th missile division in Tatishchevo will get six of these by the end of the year, bringing their total here to 46, with a further four in 2006). In addition these warheads will be used to equip the forthcoming Bulava-30
naval missiles which are currently being created for the Borey project 955 nuclear submarines. And, finally, in time three warheads will be installed on each new Topol-M and Bulava. That is, while cutting the number of missiles (and there inevitably will be a cut) Russia will not lose its nuclear combat power.
By 2025, when the United States plans to complete the deployment of all echelons of its missile defense, Russia's strategic nuclear forces will already have switched to weaponry capable of overcoming that defense. The only thing which in the long term could substantially strengthen the American missile defense system is its space segment.
The United States is currently working on the interception and destruction of warheads from space, before the final phase of their flight.
For several years now these plans have been giving rise to protest not only in Russia but also in the majority of countries, which see the deployment of weapons in space as intolerable. Only last Sunday, at the UN General Assembly 60th session, the delegates voted by an overwhelming majority for the Russian resolution banning the deployment of weapons in orbit. The United States, for the umpteenth year in succession, voted against the resolution while Israel abstained.