Strategic Weapons: Russia Revives Rocket Readiness

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March 19,2008: Russia has increased spending on ICBM maintenance and training five fold in the last four years. This has resulted in more missiles being ready for action, and more live launches to test the missiles, as well as the maintenance and operations crews. Russia would not release any statistics, but it was known that live test launches declined to nothing during the 1990s, and only resumed about eight years ago. The strategic missile forces did not have their budgets cut as much as the rest of the armed forces during the 1990s, but there were still big reductions. Security was maintained, mainly because these missiles contained nuclear warheads. But many of the missiles were taken off ready status because of maintenance issues. Either there were not sufficient technicians to make a repair, or expensive replacement parts were not available. That has all changed in the last four years. But it will still be a few more years before Russian ICBM forces are back to the readiness levels they had two decades ago. Back then, it was believed that about 70 percent of Russian ICBMs would hit their targets if launched. That was reduced by more than half during the 1990s. At the same time, the START arms reductions treaties were taking most nuclear warheads out of service. Even with all that, at their lowest readiness levels, Russia would still have been able to get a few hundred warheads on targets. Being able to destroy a hundred of the world's major cities still gave the Russians the kind of superpower status only operational nukes can.

 


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