Friday, November 28, 2008

Missile Testing Update

A claim of a successful Bulava test:

Gist: There was a test of the newest ballistic missile Bulava today. It was launched from the Dmitriy Donskoy from the White Sea and a notional target was destroyed at the Kura test range. The Bulava missile can carry up to 10 independently targeted re-entry vehicles. The range is not less than 8,000 km. It is planned to introduce this super-modern missile into service next year.

(RNB Comment: Unedifying commentary by Igor' Dygalo about how all the "combat components" successfully arrived at the range in Kura follow, plus yadda, yadda, yadda).

RNB Note: There have been initial claims of success followed by reports of failure before, so take it with a grain of salt. Also, if the Bulava is deployed next year as is so often claimed, that would make it a very undertested missile. Just as a reminder, according to this Soviet era documentary, the SS-N-23 were extensive, with nine sea-based tests, 16 firings from a land based test stand and multiple firings in different configurations from the lead boat of the Delta IV class. According to the testing timeline at Russian Strategic Forces, the Russians have pretty much foregone the land-based testing and seeing as that the Yuri Dolgoruki has just started to split atoms, there will probably be just one or two tests from the boat that the Bulava was intended for before the end of next year. Then, with fingers crossed, the Dolgoruki will conduct an under-ice transit to Vilyuchinsk and be anni-dominied as "combat certified".

We shall see.

Also, despite the fact that the news reports says that the Bulava could carry "up to ten" warheads, I believe that the Russians declared six re-entry vehicles per RSM-56 (the START name for Bulava) in the last Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty Memorandum of Understanding.

Speaking of START, in anticipation of the demise of START on 04 December, 2009, the Russians have conducted their latest test of the obviously treaty violating derivative of the SS-27 (and cousin of the Bulava), the RS-24 on the 26th:

Gist: An RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a multiple re-entry vehicle front section was test launched from a mobile launcher in Plesetsk. The Strategic Rocket Forces announced that the target at the Kura test range was destroyed. (RNB Comment: The rest of the piece is about a Soyuz-U launch from Baikonur).

How the development, testing and deployment (see next clip) of the RS-24 isn't a pretty blatent violation of START Article V, para 5 4 is a mystery to me. Article V, paragraph five four states that "[E]ach Party undertakes not to deploy on a mobile launcher of ICBMs an ICBM of a type that was not specified as a type of ICBM for mobile launchers of ICBMs in accordance with paragraph 2 of Section VII of the Protocol on Notifications Relating to this Treaty, hereinafter referred to as the Notification Protocol, unless it is an ICBM to which no more than one warhead is attributed and the Parties have agreed within the framework of the Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission to permit deployment of such ICBMs on mobile launchers of ICBMs".

I guess this means that START I as we know it, from the Russian perspective at least, is dead. Now the parties have already held their treaty-mandated meeting to discuss the future of START. It will be interesting to see how Obama will handle the START situation. Obama has demonstrated a keen interest in arms control, even going as far as being the "new Nunn" in the Nunn-Lugar series of agreements known as the Cooperative Threat Reduction initiative. I hope he would consider extending the treaty as is, if only so that inspectors can get a good first hand look at the Bulava and the RS-24. After all, satellites can't see under ascent shrouds, while inspectors conducting a paragraph six inspection can.

But I'm just a cranky, old retired Petty Officer and not a lawyer or a diplomat or lawyer-diplomat or a policy wonk and shit, so what do I know?

Finally, fresh on the heels of the successful RS-24 launch, the Commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces announces that the Teykovo division will be re-armed with new mobile missiles. Although it is unclear from the text in this announcement if the new battalion will be armed with the road mobile SS-27 (a firing unit is depicted in the video) or the new treaty-mocking RS-24, the timing of the announcement certainly arouses suspicion as to the identity of the new missile:

Gist: The commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces has announced that new ICBMs will be commissioned in the Russian Army next year. The first battalion will be stood up at the Teykovo missile unit in Ivanovskaya Oblast'. According to one colonel, the combat potential of the SRF strike force is increased many-fold with the introduction of this missile. A complete replacement of systems is planned in 2015. Its development should be complete soon. The first tests will be next year.

The text of this news report is a little muddled since the first tests of the RS-24 happened last year and wont happen next year.

Again, we'll see.


Anonymous said...

There is no violation of Article V, para 5. RS-24 will be declared as a "type of ICBM for mobile launchers of ICBMs", so it would be perfectly legal to deploy it on a mobile launcher.

It may have a problem with another provision - the one that prohibits increasing the number of warheads on existing types of missiles. But this will probably be resolved as well -

Russian Navy Blog said...

I'm looking at this part of paragraph four (I should have written 4 in the post):

"unless it is an ICBM to which no more than one warhead is attributed".

The RS-24 is road-mobile because it has been tested from a mobile launcher and will have at least three re-entry vehicles which seems to contravene that line in paragraph five about not deploying a mobile missile with more than one warhead attributed.

Additionally, after looking at Article V again, paragraph 12 also has the potential to be pretty violated by the RS-24:

12. Each Party undertakes not to:

(d) increase the number of warheads attributed to an ICBM or SLBM of an existing or new type. [III.4(b)]

But I see that you already have all of that covered in your May 2007 post.

Anonymous said...

"unless it is an ICBM to which no more than one warhead is attributed"

As I understand, this only means that a single-warhead missile that was not originally declared as a mobile missile can be deployed on a mobile launcher.

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