A new Russian ICBM on Wednesday for the first time functioned as intended in a trial firing, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, May 21).
The missile took off from a mobile carrier at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome at 10:15 a.m. local time and flew 3,700 miles. “The dummy warhead reached its target area at the Kura test range on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The set goals of the launch were reached,” Russian strategic missile forces spokesman Vadim Koval said in an Interfax report.
The weapon is said to be designed to defeat missile defense systems. The test occurred just three days after NATO formally declared an "interim capability" to protect against missile attacks (see GSN, May 21). Moscow has repeatedly said it suspects the developing U.S.-NATO missile shield for Europe is aimed at Russia's long-range nuclear forces. It has threatened a military response to the alliance project, including potential deployment of short-range ballistic missiles in territory that borders NATO states Poland and Lithuania. Earlier this month, Russian General Staff chief Gen. Nikolai Makarov suggested the military could take pre-emptive action against the NATO shield (see GSN, May 3).
Brussels and Washington counter that the missile shield is actually intended to defend against a potential Iranian ballistic missile threat to the continent. However, multiple rounds of talks with Russia have not resolved the dispute.
"This is one of the ... measures being developed by Russia's military and political leadership in response to the U.S. deployment of a global antimissile system," one-time Russian nuclear missile chief Viktor Yesin said in the Interfax report (see GSN, May 5, 2011).
The Russian ICBM had only been launched once before, in a Sept.. 27, 2011, trial that ended when an unspecified glitch caused the missile to come down after flying six miles, according to an anonymous armed forces insider.
The missile has not received a specific designation. The armed forces identify the ICBM as a "fifth-generation" armament loaded with systems more advanced than those found in Russia's existing Topol-M and RS-24 missiles.
The new ICBM "uses a new type of fuel that helps reduce the time required to operate the propellants in the active stage of the rocket's trajectory," according to an armed forces official. That upgrade reduces the potential for the missile to be observed in flight. The missile also carries multiple separate warheads that can shift direction as a defense against interception, Interfax reported (Dmitry Zaks, Agence France-Presse/Yahoo!News, May 23).
Russian news reports indicated the ICBM is an altered version of the Topol missile, according to the New York Times.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who recently began his third term in office, has demanded a twofold boost in missile manufacturing in 2013 (Andrew Kramer, New York Times, May 23).
A new Russian ICBM on Wednesday for the first time functioned as intended in a trial firing, Agence France-Presse reported.