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New Russian Missile Uses Liquid Fuel, Despite Disadvantages

A nuclear-capable ballistic missile revealed recently by Russia is the latest of its submarine-fired weapons to rely on liquid propellant, suggesting the nation could remain the sole nuclear power that does not use solid fuel for its entire sea-based nuclear deterrent, Russia Today reported on Wednesday (see GSN, Aug. 9).

Russia's Makeyev Design Bureau has confirmed the new "Liner" missile was test-fired for the first time in May. The three-stage weapon can launch from 180 feet below the ocean's surface, transport a payload totaling 2.8 metric tons and achieve a range approaching 7,500 miles.

Liquid-fuel ballistic missiles are more expensive and complex to use than their solid-fuel counterparts, Russia Today reported. Still, Moscow is expected to continue relying on liquid-fuel missiles for decades as nuclear-weapon delivery platforms.

Separately, Moscow is close to placing on active duty its solid-fuel Bulava ballistic missile. A June trial flight of the submarine-launched weapon marked its 15th launch and its eighth test that did not end in failure (see GSN, July 1).

“The Bulava, which is similar to the American Trident 2 missile, is not able to replace the heavy liquid-fuel missile Sineva and its advanced version, the Liner. Only such heavy liquid-fuel missiles are capable of throwing big payloads to very long ranges,” defense expert Igor Khokhlov said.

“Submarines armed with such missiles can operate from Russia’s safe territorial waters, where they are covered by the Russian air force and its surface navy. They can also have electronic equipment, necessary to suppress the U.S. antiballistic missile system, as part of their payload in addition to the warheads themselves,” Khokhlov said.

Only Russia today has the technological capacity to construct such weapons, Khokhlov said. The systems are presently irreplaceable in fulfilling their specific role, according to Russia Today (Russia Today, Aug. 10).

NTI Analysis

  • Ukraine Must Not Become a New Berlin Wall

    March 13, 2014

    On Friday, March 14, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. Five statesmen from Germany, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States call for the urgent formation of a Contact Group of Foreign Ministers to address the crisis and more broadly, create a new approach to building mutual security in the Euro-Atlantic region.

  • U.S. Nuclear Weapons Budget: An Overview

    Sept. 27, 2013

    A fact sheet on current and projected costs of maintaining the U.S. nuclear deterrent, produced by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

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