January 31, 2015

The Answer is Sarmat

The question is : "What is Russia's new ICBM called?"


Wow. There had been reports that Russia was developing a new heavy ICBM to replace the old R-36 (NATO reporting name SATAN). However,  it was assumed that the new heavyweight missile would be a bit smaller than the massive old cold war relic, perhaps something with a payload along the lines of the MX-Peacekeeper

It was also assumed that ISIS was a JV team, that "Never again" was more than hollow posturing and that we would notice a Russian submarine in the Gulf of Mexico before it left. In keeping with the sterling record of our designated assumers, the stats for the new Russian ICBM have been released.

SARMAT, the replacement has a declared throw weight of 10 tonnes and can hit targets in the US while firing over the south pole. That is the opposite direction most US early warning radars point. 


 R-36 (SS-18 SATAN) being launched (via the Military today article)

22,046 pounds is an awful lot of ordinance. Keep in mind that the R-36, is, by a WIDE margin the most powerful ICBM in the world. It has a "throw weight" (as reported to comply with the START treaty), of 8.5 tonnes. There was an improved version with a payload of 9.5 tonnes that was cancelled. Reportedly, this was cancelled in order to comply with arms limitation talks. Wikipedia lists some payload options that were cancelled to comply with the 10 warhead treaty limit.  
 Three of these versions would carry regular warheads—38 × 250 kt yield, 24 × 500 kt yield, or 15–17 × 1 Mt yield. Two modifications were supposed to carry guided warheads ("upravlyaemaya golovnaya chast")—28 × 250 kt or 19 × 500 kt. 
Note that one of the two latest versions of the R-36 is a single warhead version as well, carrying a huge 20 megaton warhead that was, in part developed to maximize EMP effects. These huge warheads were removed and stored in 2009 as the Russians sought to maximize the number of warheads given the 10 warhead limit and the dwindling number of serviceable missiles. The R-36 was manufactured and serviced in Ukraine and recent events....well...the replacement program is a rather high priority. It need not, however be a challenging one. The Russians are quite capable at rocketry and the characteristics are a modest improvement on 1970's technology, but without parts made in Ukraine. Indeed, it appears that testing will begin this year. There is more on this (in Russian) here (google translate version behind spoiler tag)

This rocket is fearsome, but it is not a huge advance over the missile it replaces. However, it may itself represent a further rejection of the arms limitation treaties. and it drives home the fact that the Russians are very serious about relying on their nuclear forces.

 What could possibly go wrong?

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 08:31 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
Post contains 482 words, total size 6 kb.

1 From the extimations that I heard, Sarmat is clearly busting its lift-off weight targets.

Personally I do not understand what the point of the whole excercise is. They already have Yars (and Topol-M) that cover all imaginable scenarios. Some people said that Russia is having issues with getting critical stocks to make large solid motors, in particular so-called "white cellulose". It was made by a plant on Lake Baikal that enviros shut down. Sarmat is a significant step back in technology. Still, wouldn't it be more useful for the industry to develop new technologies?

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at Sat Jan 31 22:38:38 2015 (RqRa5)

2 I dunno, I agree with you that Yars and its kin would seem adequate.
Two possible reasons come to mind. One, obvious given the fact that the R-36 is now a Ukranian project:, they need a weapon quick...the stats for this monstrosity hint that it might just be a warmed over R-36 upgrade beneffiting from 30 years of materials science. 
The other possibility is entirely speculative and that is that the Russians feel they need a really big rocket for some reason. It may be that they are looking at something like launching powered hypersonic gliders that will follow a much lower trajectory than an actual ballistic path. This would be heavy, but they've looked at it as a way to get by ABM systems. 
It could also be that the big 20 megaton warhead, which requires a huge rocket (and is one of their newer warheads, being developed in 1991) is something that they consider to be a real asset.  It would have obvious advantages against hard targets, but in general a 20 megaton bomb is less useful than 10x1 megaton bombs.However, that weapon is described in the Wikipedia arsenal and elsewhere as being optimized for EMP. This might explain why it's so much heavier (9000kg) than the B-41, (a slightly more powerful American equivalent designed back in the '50s). 
There is also the possibility that they need scads of mid-sized warheads on each missile to guarantee that if a few missiles escape a first strike they can do terrible damage, even using the treaty limits of 10 warheads per missile 3 missiles = 30 cities. However, I'd think that the RS-24 Yars and the RS-26 Rubez would be more survivable by virtue of their mobility. The "great scud hunt" of the second Gulf war was no cakewalk and was ultimately unsuccessful. 
I dunno, it's big, it's scary and it's nuclear...the only thing for certain is war.
War never changes....

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Sat Jan 31 23:37:18 2015 (ohzj1)

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