Russia’s “Sarmat” ICBM Will Soon Return America to Reality

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Finally the launch tests of the promising Russian ICBM “Sarmat”, which the strategic missile troops waited two years for, took place. According to the initial plans, the missile should be put into service next year. It is necessary to wait a couple more years.

As was repeatedly argued by various sources both in the military and in industrial structures, the failure to meet the time constraints happened not because of the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau in Miass, where the missile is being directly developed. There were problems with the launcher, hosted in a silo.

The launch test is the very first stage of verification of all systems, which isn’t limited to only one missile. A launch system is the most difficult construction, which includes launch equipment, means of defense of the silo – including from a nuclear attack, especially protected communication channels, and many other things.

The tests took place at the end of last year in the 4th test center of the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the Arkhangelsk region. All the equipment worked in a regular regime. Under the influence of the gunpowder accelerant the missile – or to be more exact, a dummy, identical in design, geometry, size, and weight – left the silo and, having risen 30 meters, flew up before falling some distance away. Thus, a real start of the missile was completed, the main engines of which must be started at a “safe” height so that the flame doesn’t damage the launcher.

At the next stage of testing a real missile launches at various distances with various loads takes place. And the range of the “Sarmat” is unique — 17,000 km, as well as its throw-weight – about 10 tons.

When the tenders were active for the development of two missiles that are the most important for Russia’s nuclear missile shield — “Bulava” and “Sarmat”, the transfer of the missiles for submarines to the Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering (MIHE) became quite unexpected. It would seem that this matter should be dealt with precisely by the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau, because it is precisely this bureau that was creating during a foreseeable period of time one ICBM after another for the strategic submarine fleet.

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However, the reason for such a decision is absolutely clearcut. MIHE creates solid-fuel missiles, and it is precisely these are necessary now for the Navy. Makeyev has already accumulated enormous experience in developing missiles with liquid-rocket engines. And they outperform solid-fuel ones, possessing a higher specific impulse, which defines power characteristics. I.e., they are capable of providing more thrust and, therefore, can accelerate missiles of bigger weight. In addition, with liquid-rocket engine it is possible to vary the thrust in a wider range for the realisation of various flight regimes.

And in this area the achievements of the Makeyev State missile center impresses. The “Sineva” nuclear ICBM created by it for nuclear submarines holds the absolute world record for power-to-weight ratio, possessing the largest ratio of power of the missile relative to its weight.

The task set before Makeyev was not easy. It was necessary to surpass the performance of the in-service “Voevoda” missile, which NATO calls “Satan” for its unique power and ability to break through missile defense systems of the opponent. This formidable weapon of containment is still relevant even now. However, nothing stands still. A potential enemy constantly improves its means of anti-missile defense. And in the near future there can come a moment when the means of self-defense of “Voevoda” will be insufficiently effective.

One more reason for the replacement of “Voevoda” is the fact that three years ago all ties to the Yuzhnoye Design Office and the manufacturer of the missile – the Ukrainian “Yuzhmash” plant – were severed. Accordingly, it isn’t worth speaking about deliveries of spare parts and carrying out service actions now.

Largely for this reason it was decided not to modernise “Voevoda”, but to create an absolutely new missile. Although the main component — the engines — was not Ukrainian, but Russian. The RD-264 engine was developed in the Moscow suburb of Khimki at the State Energomash industry under the leadership of Vitaly Radovsky.

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As a result, the new missile – the creation of which is headed by the chief designer Yury Kaverin – surpassed “Voevoda” in all respects. The “Sarmat” ICBM – with a higher power-to-weight ratio and a starting weight that is 20% less than that of the “Voevoda” – “delivers to the consumer” not 8.8 tons anymore, but 10 tons of payload. And the range reaches 17,000 km. The number of individual targeting warheads increased from 10 to 16.

Thus, a dual-purpose missile was created. Due to its enormous power opportunities, “Sarmat” is capable of putting satellites into orbit. It also can conduct orbital attacks and reach a target from space from any direction, and not only via the North Pole. This will allow trajectories to be built bypassing the enemy’s zones of massive anti-missile defense.

The missile is equipped with an inertial control system of a new generation, the maximum deviation from the target is only about 50 meters. Thanks to this the missile can be used also in a non-nuclear, striking powerful blows via a kinetic warhead on the most important strategic objects of the enemy.

At the same time the ability of the warhead to overcome the missile defense of the enemy is unique. It is based on the highest power qualities of the missile, which, before the gradual separation from it of the warheads, has the opportunity to manoeuvre with high overloads, exiting the opponent’s anti-missile, and also to present false targets to them, which have the same response for the radar station of missile defense systems that the missile itself does. The warheads also possess high manoeuvrability. In addition, they are equipped also with means of radio-electronic warfare of the latest generation. And they are also accompanied by false targets that are indistinguishable to a land radar from warheads.

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Moreover, these warheads are the first tier, the production technology of which already has a high degree of readiness. It is precisely these that “Sarmat” will in the beginning be equipped with. The second tier of warheads is the Yu-71 hypersonic glider, which are also called “product 4202” and the Aeroballistic Hypersonic Warhead (AHW). They are capable of reaching speeds ranging from 17 M to 22 M, and at the same time actively manoeuvre in course and pitch. The circular probable deviation is 5−10 meters. Not only modern, but also perspective means of anti-missile defense aren’t capable of intercepting such warheads. Allegedly, three AHWs will be installed on “Sarmat”.

Tests of “product 4202” allegedly began in 2010 on Baikonur Cosmodrome. In 2013 they were transferred to the Yasny Strategic Missile Troops base in the Orenburg region. By the middle of this 2017 6 launches of AHW were conducted, the last of which – the sixth – was recognised as being completely successful. There is reason to assume that in October the seventh launch, and on December 26th the eighth launch took place.

So far the US hasn’t commented at all on the last two launches. But the sixth, in April, 2017, caused big alarm in the Pentagon. An emergency meeting of the United States House Committee on Armed Services devoted to questions of strengthening missile defense in connection with the “new circumstances” was convened. An amendment to the law on allocations for national defense was adopted, according to which it was entrusted to the US Missile Defense Agency to develop a program to combat the growing threat emanating from the high-speed manoeuvring missiles.

In summary, it is necessary to say that the Krasnoyarsk Metallurgic Plant, the production base of which was recently modernised, was ready for serial production of the Sarmat missiles at the beginning of 2017.

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