RS-28 Sarmat – Formidable Weapon to Counter US PGS and BMD Plans

RS-28 Sarmat – Formidable Weapon to Counter US PGS and BMD Plans

Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces (Strategic Missile Troops) Commander Sergey Karakayev said on May 10 that Russia is developing new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with special focus on the capability to penetrate US ballistic missile defense (BMD).

He said the decision to expedite the implementation has been provoked by US BMD deployment in Europe.

The General emphasized that Russian missiles are capable of delivering warheads via energy optimal trajectory and striking from multiple directions, «which forces the opposing side to ensure perimeter missile defense».

According to him, Russia will have an equal number of stationary and mobile ground ICBM launchers by 2021.

The service plans to test 16 intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2016.

Out of a total 16 test launches, 14 are to be conducted as part of the development of new missiles and warheads.

Overall, Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces are planning to test around 160 new weapon systems in 2016, twice as many as in 2015.

Some of tests are likely to involve a new hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), the YU-71, which eventually could be mounted on the RS-28 Sarmat (SS-X-30), the country’s newest super heavy liquid-propelled thermonuclear intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

The development of the Sarmat silo-based missile system with a heavy missile is nearing completion.

Russia will station its new RS-28 Sarmat heavy liquid-propelled intercontinental ballistic missiles in Siberia and the southern part of Urals when the new weapon becomes operational in 2018.

The system will gradually replace the obsolete Voyevoda R-36M2 Satan (SS-18) ICBM.

Sarmat will use the same silos that house Satan at the moment, but the two missiles have quite different specifications. The silos would be rebuilt for the new missiles and equipped with interceptors to protect them from a pre-emptive strike.

The first prototype missiles have already been built. The first test launches are scheduled for later this year at Plesetsk site after a short period of on-site preliminary trials.

According to a defense industry source, a missile is ejected from a silo to an altitude of 30-40 meters by a hot-gas generator in drop tests. This is the altitude for starting the first-stage cruise engine in 'regular' launches.

With a range of at least 6,000 miles, the largest ICBM ever built, the RS-28 Sarmat will carry as many as 15 independently targeted thermo-nuclear warheads: 10 heavy warheads or 15 lighter ones depending on the mission.

The missile will weigh at least 100-tons and carry a 10-ton payload. It will use a combination of decoys, a massive array of countermeasures systems and sheer speed designed specifically to overcome ballistic missile defenses. It will be equipped with maneuvering warheads to complicate interception.

The planned deployment of RS-28 is one of measures taken by Russia in response to the US Prompt Global Strike (PGS) and ballistic missile defense plans.   

The PGS is an effort to develop a system that can deliver a precision-guided conventional weapon airstrike anywhere in the world within one hour. The program encompasses numerous established and emerging technologies, including conventional surface-launched missiles and air- and submarine-launched hypersonic missiles.

The ballistic missile defense is being created to counter a counterstrike in case of war. The US strives to create an effective global missile defense system consisting of various integrated types of missile interception means, be it kinetic or laser systems, deployed in all environments, including in space. It believes that such multi-layered defense would be able to engage missiles in the air and warheads in space.

In 2002 the US unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty.

The move was very destructive for the arms control regime. It was perceived in Russia as an attempt to make the US immune to a retaliatory strike.  

Now, the Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system has already been deployed in Romania. According to the plans, in 2018 its upgraded version will be stationed in Poland. US missile defense capable ships are homeported in Rota, Spain. These are just a few examples of US BMD global effort.

Moscow has stated on many occasions that if the US continues to push the issue, Russia will find asymmetrical means of responding to the missile defense system. The long-term development plans of Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces have been corrected accordingly. The service plans to introduce some brand new and effective means and techniques to penetrate any missile defense system, capable of engaging targets anywhere in the world. RS-28 is an example testifying to the fact that abandoning the ABM Treaty and implementing programs to gain superiority over Russia has not made America safer. Quite to the contrary, arms control is the best way to keep the threat away. Hopefully, the next US administration adopts more realistic approaches to the problems of nuclear security.