Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Russia Developing New Rail-Mobile Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

According to the Russian Deputy Defense Minister, Yury Borisov, an R&D program to develop a new rail-mobile InterContinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) has been started by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology.

The Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology is currently already engaged in developing long-range ballistic missiles with Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRV), including:
  • The RSM-56 Bulava Sea-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM)
  • The RT-2UTTKh Topol-M silo-based and road-mobile ICBM
  • The RS-24 Yars silo-based and road-mobile ICBM
The new rail-mobile ICBM will be much smaller and lighter than the previous rail-mobile ICBM used by Russia, the RT-23 (NATO: SS-24 Scalpel) that were eliminated under the START II treaty.

Of the five countries that have ICBM's, Russia is the only one to have deployed the rail-mobile ICBM. The idea was also considered by the United States, but abandoned in favor of other methods.

The US, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China have all taken their respective geographical conditions into account in deciding how to base their nuclear deterrent.

The result is that the five countries do not follow a single philosophy, but take a different approach based on their own beliefs. This is reflected in the systems that they have developed.

The UK and France, being relatively small countries in terms of geography, rely mostly on submarines for their nuclear deterrent. The US also favors the SSBN, but being a larger country, also has silo-based ICBM's.

On the other hand, Russia and especially China, have given more weight to the land-based option. Both have developed road-mobile ICBM's unlike the previous three.

Russia is by far the largest country in terms of geography and its vast territory makes rail-mobile ICBM a viable option. Of the five countries, Russia has the most diverse options for basing its nuclear deterrent.

It has the nuclear submarine for launching the SLBM, the long-range bomber with nuclear-armed cruise missiles, the silo-based ICBM, the road-mobile ICBM and now the rail-mobile ICBM.

China is similar in size to the United States and relies mostly on land-based, road-mobile ICBM's. It currently lags behind the other four in terms of the nuclear submarine, but has taken a unique approach to its nuclear deterrent.

China is a country where a large portion is mountainous terrain. It has by far the most extensive network of underground facilities in the world, part of which is used to house its nuclear missiles.

From China's standpoint, this method of hiding road-mobile missiles deep underground is even more secure than the nuclear submarine. The submarine does have some unique advantages, such as being able to significantly adjust the angle of attack of inbound missiles.

But for China, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. For example, both the UK and France have four SSBN, of which one and sometimes two can be on patrol at any point in time.

If anything were to happen to that SSBN, which tend to house a large number of warheads, the loss would be very severe and would knock out a large portion of the counter-attack when it's needed the most.

The Chinese system allows for greater amount of redundancy. The loss of several systems can be more easily absorbed, while still retaining the option of striking back.

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