Strategic Weapons: November 16, 2000

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Having decided to spend money on conventional rather than nuclear weaponry, Russia plans to refurbish existing nuclear ICBMs rather than replace them with newer models. This will be difficult as the corrosive fuel limits the practical service life of the missiles. Russia deployed 10 Topol-M (SS-27) missiles in 1998 and another 10 in 1999, but has deployed only 6 so far this year and the four to be deployed next year may be the last new missiles for a decade. The Russians have 154 heavy SS-18s on hand, but are obliged to discard them by 2007 under the START2 treaty. (They plan to expend them as satellite boosters, which is allowed by the treaty.) The US had expected them to be gone well before 2007 due to expiring service lives (most were built in the mid-70s and are good for only 25 years) but the Russians plan to refurbish them and keep them on hand until required to remove them (assuming that the treaties have not been canceled for some reason before then). SS-19s, which began deployment in 1979 with 25-year scheduled lives, will be extended to 30 years. The SS25 road-mobile missile went into service in 1985 with a 20-year life, but this will also be pushed to 30 years.--Stephen V Cole

 


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