2008: Russia is working on a new ICBM (the RS-24), with an emphasis on equipping
it with decoys and other deception measures to get past U.S. anti-missile
systems. This new missile is believed to be an upgrade of the existing Topol-M.
The new Bulava is also a modified version of the land based Topol-M, which was
the last new ICBM Russia developed before the Cold War ended in 1991. The RS-24
has been tested three times in the last two years. Russia plans to put the
RS-24 in service next year.
Bulava SLBMs (Sea Launched Ballistic Missiles) has also finally gone into
production. The Bulava will equip the new Borei class SSBN (nuclear powered
ballistic missile submarine). The Borei class boats replace the aging Cold War
era SSBNs, which are being retired because of safety and reliability issues and
the high expense of running them. Nuclear submarines are one area of military
spending that did not get cut back sharply after the Soviet Union collapsed in
Despite several test failures, the Russians were confident in the basic technology in the
Bulava. The Russians knew there would be failures, and knew that the two most
recent U.S. SLBMs had a 13 percent (23 tests of the Trident I) and two percent
(49 tests of Trident II) failure rate. What did make many Russians nervous was
the fact that the Bulava is replacement for an earlier SLBM that had to be
cancelled during development because of too many test failures. The Bulava is
basically a navalized version of the successful Topol ICBM. This is the primary
reason the Russians moved forward with Bulava.
The 45 ton
Bulava SCBM is a little shorter than the Topol M, so that it could fit into the
missile tube. Thus Bulava has a shorter range of some 8,000 kilometers. Bulava
has three stages and uses solid fuel. Currently, each Bulava carries a single
500 kiloton nuclear weapon, plus decoys and the ability to maneuver. The
warhead is also shielded to provide protection from the electronic pulse of
nearby nuclear explosions. Take away all of these goodies, and the Bulava could
be equipped with up to ten smaller (150 kiloton) warheads. But the big thing is
still trying to defeat American anti-missile systems. Russia is paranoid about
their nuclear missiles, as the rest of their armed forces are a shambles, and
only the ICBMs and SLBMs really provide any clout.