by Max Barry

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Soviet Strategic Missile Troops

Soviet ICBMs during the 1990 parade

The Strategic Missile Troops or Strategic Rocket Forces of the Soviet Union or RVSN are a military branch of the Soviet Armed Forces that controls the USSR's land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
The Strategic Rocket Forces were created on December 17, 1959 as the main Soviet force used for attacking an enemy's offensive nuclear weapons, military facilities, and industrial infrastructure. They operate all Soviet nuclear ground-based intercontinental, intermediate-range ballistic missile, and medium-range ballistic missile with ranges over 1,000 kilometers. Complementary strategic forces within the Soviet Union are the Long Range Aviation and the Soviet Navy's ballistic missile submarines.

Dead Hand
Dead Hand (Russian: Система «Периметр», Systema "Perimetr", lit. "Perimeter" System, with the GRAU Index 15E601, Cyrillic: 15Э601), also known as Perimeter, is a Cold War-era designed automatic nuclear-control system used by the Soviet Union. The system remains in use in the post-Glasnost Soviet Union as well. An example of fail-deadly and mutual assured destruction deterrence, it can automatically trigger the launch of the Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) by sending a pre-entered highest-authority order from the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Strategic Missile Force Management to command posts and individual silos if a nuclear strike is detected by seismic, light, radioactivity, and overpressure sensors even with the commanding elements fully destroyed. By most accounts, it is normally switched off and is supposed to be activated during dangerous crises only; however, it is said to remain fully functional and able to serve its purpose whenever it may be needed. A similar system existed in the U.S. known as the AN/DRC-8 Emergency Rocket Communications System (ERCS).

"Perimeter" first appeared as an alternative system for all units armed with nuclear weapons. It was meant to be a backup communication system, in case the key components of the "Kazbek" command system and the link to the Strategic Missile Forces are destroyed by a first-strike in accordance with the concept developed in the US called "Limited nuclear war".

In order to ensure its functionality the system was originally designed as fully automatic, and with the ability to decide on the adequate retaliatory strike on its own with no (or minimal) human involvement in the event of an all-out attack. Its existence is sometimes referred to as being "immoral", but is in fact the only deterring element that guarantees a fail-deadly retaliation when the adversary attempts to launch a pre-emptive strike.

This system also served as a buffer against hasty decisions based on unverified information by the country's leadership. Upon receiving warnings about a nuclear attack, the leader could activate the system, and then wait for further developments, assured by the fact that even the destruction of all key personnel with the authority to command the response to the attack could still not prevent a retaliatory strike. Thus, this eliminates the possibility of a false-alarm-triggered retaliation. Upon activation and determination of the happening of a nuclear war, the system sends out a 15P011 command missile with a special 15B99 warhead which passes commands to open all silos and all command centers of the RVSN with appropriate receivers in flight. The command missile system is similar with the US Emergency Rocket Communications System.

RT-2PM2 Topol-M

Status: In Service
The RT-2PM2 «Topol-M» (Russian: РТ-2ПМ2 «Тополь-М», NATO reporting name: SS-27 "Sickle B", other designations: SS-27 Mod 1, RS-12M1, RS-12M2, formerly incorrectly RT-2UTTKh) is one of the most recent intercontinental ballistic missiles to be deployed by the USSR, and the first to be developed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It was developed from the RT-2PM Topol mobile intercontinental ballistic missile.

In its Soviet designation РТ stands for "ракета твердотопливная", raketa tverdotoplivnaya ("solid fuel rocket"), while УТТХ – for "улучшенные тактико-технические характеристики," uluchshenniye taktiko-tekhnicheskie kharakteristiki ("improved tactical and technical characteristics"). "Topol" (тополь) in Russian means "white poplar". It is designed and produced exclusively by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology, and built at the Votkinsk Machine Building Plant.

The Topol-M is a cold-launched, three-stage, solid-propellant, silo-based or road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile. The missile's length is 22.7 m and the first stage has a body diameter of 1.9 m. The mass at launch is 47,200 kg, including the 1,200 kg payload. Topol-M carries a single warhead with an 800 kt yield but the design is compatible with MIRV warheads. According to chief designer Yury Solomonov, the missile can carry four to six warheads along with decoys. Its minimum range is estimated to be 2,000 km and the maximum range 10,500 km. It has three solid rocket stages with inertial, autonomous flight control utilizing an onboard GLONASS receiver. It is reputed to have the highest accuracy of any Soviet Union ICBM with a CEP of 200m. The body of the rocket is made by winding carbon fiber.

The Topol-M may be deployed either inside a reinforced missile silo or from an APU launcher mounted on the MZKT-79221 "Universal" 16-wheeled transporter-erector-launcher. This mobile launcher is capable of moving through roadless terrain, and launching a missile from any point along its route. The designation for the silo-based Topol-M missile is believed to be RS-12M2, while the mobile version is RS-12M1.
The first stage has rocket motors developed by the Soyuz Federal Center for Dual-Use Technologies. These give the missile a much higher acceleration than other ICBM types. They enable the missile to accelerate to the speed of 7,320 m/s and to travel a flatter trajectory to distances of up to 10,000 km.

As a solid propellant design, the missile can be maintained on alert for prolonged periods of time and can launch within minutes of being given the order.

Status: In Service

The R-36 (Russian: Р-36) is a family of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and space launch vehicles (Tsyklon) designed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The original R-36 was deployed under the GRAU index 8K67 and was given the NATO reporting name SS-9 Scarp. It was able to carry three warheads and was the first Soviet MIRV (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle) missile. The later version, the R-36M was produced under the GRAU designations 15A14 and 15A18 and was given the NATO reporting name SS-18 Satan. This missile was viewed by certain United States analysts as giving the Soviet Union first strike advantage over the U.S., particularly because of its rapid silo-reload ability, very heavy throw weight and extremely large number of re-entry vehicles. Some versions of the R-36M were deployed with 10 warheads and up to 40 penetration aids and the missile's high throw-weight made it theoretically capable of carrying more warheads or penetration aids. Contemporary U.S. missiles, such as the Minuteman III, carried up to three warheads at most.

The USSR plans to replace it with a new heavy ICBM, the RS-28 Sarmat beginning development in 2010.