Russia to Field New Heavy Missile by 2018

Tom Z. Collina

As part of its declared effort to respond to U.S.-NATO plans to field missile interceptors in eastern Europe by 2020, Russia said in September that it would deploy a new “heavy” intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in 2018.

The new ICBM prototype was flight-tested for the first time at the Plesetsk test site in Archangelsk on May 23, according to Voice of Russia. Strategic Missile Forces commander Sergey Karakayev said Sept. 3 that Moscow plans to deploy the new ICBM by 2018 to replace the Voyevoda, or SS-18 “Satan” missile, which is being retired. The new liquid-fueled, silo-based missile would carry up to 10 warheads and “penetration systems” to prevent “discrimination of the true from false warheads,” Voice of Russia said.

Russian retired Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin, now with the Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Moscow, told Voice of Russia Sept. 4 that he did not see “any compelling reason for developing a new fixed-site, liquid-fueled heavy missile,” which can only be used “for a first-strike or counterforce attack,” a prospect he found “absurd.” He said, “[T]he missile is not suitable for a retaliatory strike” due to its vulnerability to “nuclear and high-accuracy non-nuclear weapons.”

Meanwhile, the State Department’s International Security Advisory Board wrote in an Aug. 14 draft report that the United States and Russia could pursue mutual reductions below the levels established in the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) and thus “could improve stability by reducing Russia’s incentive to build a new heavy ICBM.”

The report noted that Russia is already below New START limits and said that the United States “can follow Russia downward below New START ceilings,” allowing both countries to avoid “costly or destabilizing modernization efforts.”

The Russian Defense Ministry said last year that it would take steps, such as building a new heavy ICBM, if the United States followed through on its plans to field missile interceptors in eastern Europe capable of targeting Russian long-range missiles.