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RS-12M SS-25


At present, among nuclear-ballistic
missiles systems, only the Russian
system is developed according to the
mobile ground-launched ICBM concept.

During the 50-year history of modern missile weapons, designers from a number of countries created dozens of versions of missile systems, which were mainly deployed as the most important component of weapon systems in the armed forces of nuclear-weapon states. Mobile missile systems mounted on truck chassis assumed a particular place among numerous military-technical concepts of ground- launched missile systems. History of military-technical thought has formed in such a way that the “FAU-2” world’s first ballistic rocket was deployed only in the mobile concept. The level of technology at that time dictated a system version, which was complicated to operate and required mobile units of several dozens of names for rocket launch. Today the launch of a modern intercontinental ballistic missile involves only the equipment of the same transporter used to transfer the missile from one place to another, thereby escaping the enemy intelligence and counterattack means.

Attempts were repeatedly made in both the Soviet Union and abroad to create mobile strategic missile systems. However, nobody managed to create a serial system of such weapons for the Armed Forces until the mid-1970s, when the “Pioneer” missile system was created in the USSR with an intermediate-range missile, followed by the “Topol” intercontinental ballistic missile tems, were developed by cooperating enterprises led by the Moscow Thermal Engineering Institute, headed for a long time by Chief Designer Alexander Nadiradze and currently by General Designer Boris Lagutin.

At present, among the all modern nuclear-ballistic missile systems, only the Russian system is developed according to the mobile ground-launched ICBM concept. The history of military-political confrontation of nuclear powers formed in such a way that today this system proved to be fully ade- quate to the modern strategic sta- bility concept, as confirmed by the START-1 and START-2 Treaties. It is no coincidence that several silo-based missile systems with multiple independently targetable warheads (MIRV type) were replaced by single-warhead mobile missiles. Such a system is highly survivable, simple and effective owing to the mobility and concealment of the system’s main component - a launcher with a missile.

In Russia a grouping of self-propelled launchers with single-warhead three-stage solid-propellant ballistic missiles RS-12M “Topol” (SS-25 under NATO classification or “Side” according to the USA designation) has been deployed. Although the first missiles were delivered to the Rocket Forces ten years ago, today they are still being produced by Votkinsk Engineering Plant. This means that until the first decade of the next century these missiles and other components of the missile system will form part of the Russian ground nuclear-missile weapon grouping.

At the launching pad in Plesetsk

Incidentally, US inspectors scrupulously keep a record of our missiles at the plant’s crossing point. This is the present-day reality - the US Inspection has established a base till the end of this century in Urals region, which was absolutely restricted for foreigners in previous times, to carry out the procedures specified by the Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles Treaty.

In terms of military and technical aspects the “Topol” missile system is almost perfect. This powerful and mobile creation of the human mind and hands impresses even in photographs. In off-road marching or deployment in a combat position under a camouflage net, in readiness to instantly and precisely deliver an attack against a target, located even on another continent, this system can beneficially influence world stability owing to its existence. One should know above all that Russia has a sufficient number of nuclear-missile systems capable, if required, of quickly dispers- ing and hiding, without losing the centralized controllability in any situation, and then delivering in a few seconds an attack of such power and accuracy that no target will be able to withstand it.

An extraordinary capability to quickly travel off roads is realized in these enormous vehicles, and their safety, reliable and simple operation are maintained at a level typical of Russian weaponry. The optimum variant, found by designers, combining the automation of processes, associated with execution of a combat mission, with human participation, ensures the high combat and operational effectiveness of the missile system. In short, to date the “Topol” missile system is the most optimum strategic missile system for Russia.

The SS-25 missile

This missile system demonstrates effectively the capability of materiel and personnel involved in its operation. This is one of the main properties of the strategic deterrent system. The “Topol” missile system was designed and con- structed with the Russian operating conditions taken into consider- ation. However, its separate components (naturally, not associated directly with combat elements) may be used and are used successfully now for civilian purposes in any world region. Most are unique and resulted from the hard research-and-development and design-and-invention work of many defense industry organizations of Russia and a number of enterprises from former Union Republics.

Now that considerable information on the “Topol” missile sys- tem has become accessible to military experts of foreign countries and the public after the execution of Strategic Offensive Arms Limitation and Reduction Treaties, and owing to a number of advertising activities of the Ministry of Defense of Russia, there is no reason to hide objects, which can successfully be used in a civilian field of activity.

A missile is heading for its target

It is difficult in one article to describe the advantages and unique properties of Minsk automobiles powered by Yaroslavl engines, which serve as the basis for launchers and other mobile units of the missile system. They ensure the unique mobility of the “Topol” missile system. The Minsk Wheeled Truck-Tractor Manufacturing Plant is the world’s only plant to manufacture such cross-country vehicles with a load-carrying capacity of over 50 tons. This plant is already converting in cooperation with Russian allied suppliers its multi-axle trucks. In the literal sense of the word, the “cars on truck chassis”, manufactured by the Minsk Automobile Plant jointly with the “Shumerlya Specialized Automobiles Manufacturing Plant” Joint Stock Company, can satisfy the demands of any customer. Such a body has a usable area of more than 30 m2 and a load-carrying capacity of over ten tons, providing perfect conditions for equipment mounting and personnel vital activities.

Unique jacks, gas and hydraulic drives and cylinders, with a power of several hundred tons, ensuring rapid response, also deserve mention. In the missile system they are intended for jacking and leveling of the launcher, speeded up (combat) and slowed down (maintenance) elevation of a large-tonnage container with the missile to the vertical position. It is very simple to apply these systems in the civilian sphere. Simple and highly reliable electrical equipment and various current converters incorporated in the missile system provide continuous power supply to consumers with wide-range currents of various voltages and frequencies. The system features complete power supply independence, which is greatly needed by many consumers separated from the centralized power supply.



ballistic, solid-propellant,
three-stage, in the launching

Launch weight, tons


Length of the missile in
the launching container, m


Launching container
diameter, m



mounted on cross-country
7-axle chassis

Mobile command posts,
support facilities

mounted on cross-country
4-axle chassis with unified

To ensure serviceability of the missile and also some other subsystems during the guaranteed service life, the missile system incorporates a subsystem maintaining the temperature and humidity conditions in the missile container and some bins of the launcher. This subsystem cools effectively air in these spaces or warms it up to the required values, and also controls the humidity level. Based on the design-and-configuration concepts and tech- nologies used in this missile system, the Russian specialists creat- ed a self-contained container-thermostat intended for long-term storage of food stuffs in various climatic conditions.

One more striking example of the high level of technologies, used in the “Topol” missile system, is its topogeodesic support and navigation subsystem, created by the “Signal” Research Institute. It provides a quick and highly precise tie-in of the launcher in a field position and enables its crew to carry out missile launches from any combat patrolling route point, where the launch command was received. Geologists and surveyors, as well as specialists of many other professions can only dream about such navigation.

The system incorporates a host of other novelties applicable in the national economy and civil production. Now may be a good time as any to start specifying this materiel, mass produce, sell and service all its nonmilitary, useful components. After all, we managed to convert the heart of the missile system - the RS-12M intercontinental ballistic missile (refer to “Military Parade”, January-February 1994, for details) - into the peaceful carrier rockets of the “Start” family.

What does the future hold for “Topol”? First of all - a long life in our army. More than one genera- tion of officers have already served in subunits operating this missile system. In compliance with the Strategic Offensive Arms Limitation and Reduction Treaties, signed with the USA, a new updated next- generation system, with a universal silo-based and mobile missile, is “growing up” as a substitute for the “Topol” missile system.

Boris Lagutin, Lev Solomonov

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