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Last Updated: June, 2014


Recognizing that its missile facilities represented some of the most technologically advanced sectors of Ukraine's economy, the government of independent Ukraine set about transforming its missile enterprises into a cohesive industry, while reducing the defense component of its activities. The heightened level of attention that has been paid to Ukraine's missile sector is partly a result of Ukraine's former president Leonid Kuchma having been a missile engineer and one of the directors of the Pivdenmash Machine-Building Plant, the largest missile plant in Ukraine.

While work on ballistic missile systems has lapsed, the Ukrainian missile industry's new focus has become space launch vehicles (SLVs). NKAU's mission includes developing policies for peaceful space exploration, using space for national security, and cooperating with other countries and international organizations. Ukraine's first space program, which ran from 1992 through 1997, set the goal of establishing a legislative base for space activities and protecting Ukraine's store of know-how in this field. Kyiv's accomplishments during this period included securing membership in a number of international organizations dedicated to space exploration, including the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Space (COPUOS), Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), International Astronautical Federation (IAF), Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), and signing agreements on space cooperation with Russia, China, India, Brazil, and the United States. The second space program, which ran from 1998 through 2002, focused on penetrating the international space services market and integrating Ukraine into the global space community. The third space program, active from 2003 through 2007, has set the goals of consolidating domestic space policy, preserving the high level of space technology in Ukraine, and establishing stable commercial relationships with foreign partners. Development of new technologies and modernization of research and production infrastructure are also high priorities.[2]

The most important Ukrainian missile facilities are the Pivdenne Design Bureau and the Pivdenny Machine-Building Plant (Pivdenmash), also known under their Russian designations of Yuzhnoye Design Bureau and Yuzhmash, respectively. Both facilities are located in the city of Dnepropetrovsk and represent the bulk of Ukraine's missile design and production capability. During the Soviet era, these two facilities were among the most important intercontinental ballistic missile icbm (ICBM) design and production facilities, and were responsible for the so-called "heavy" ICBMs START I Treaty designation applied to missiles whose launch weight exceeds 100t), such as the SS-9 "Scarp" and the SS-18 "Satan." Although during the Soviet era they were both part of NPO Yuzhnoye, in 1991, the two facilities became separate organizations for administrative and budgetary purposes. However, their scientific and technical collaboration continues. Both facilities suffered considerably from Ukraine's economic crisis, and their worker rolls shrank by nearly 50 percent between 1991 and 1998. The personnel drain may have been more significant had it not been for foreign contracts, which now account for nearly 90 percent of these enterprises' income, and increased reliance on production of civilian products. While the Ukrainian missile industries produced civilian goods during the Soviet era, following Ukraine's independence, the proportion of such production has increased because of the loss of orders for rocketry products. Items produced include agricultural machinery, wind turbines for electricity generation, and trolleybuses. [4] Following Kyiv's independence, both facilities focused on SLV projects and joint ventures with Russia and Western partners. Their current capabilities include ICBM and SLV design, design and manufacture of liquid-fueled rocket engines, design and manufacture of re-entry vehicles and satellites, and technologies for composites and advanced metallic alloys.[3] While Ukraine's work on ballistic missile design and production ceased for a period of time, since 2005, Ukrainian defense and industry officials have discussed ongoing efforts to indigenously design and produce a cruise missile and a tactical ballistic missile, possibly for export. [5,6]

The second most important concentration of Ukraine's missile facilities is in Pavlohrad, which is home to the Pavlohrad Mechanical Plant (also known as the Pavlohrad Chemical Machine-Building Plant), and the Pavlohrad Chemical Plant. While during the Soviet era, these facilities were part of NPO Yuzhnoye, they are now independent, though retain some contacts with Pivdenne Design Bureau and Pivdenmash. [7] The Pavlohrad missile enterprises were engaged only on the military side of the Soviet rocket/missile program. Their main contribution to the Soviet missile/space effort was the assembly of SS-24 ICBMs and production of solid propellant for these missiles. Due to the absence of any space-related projects, these enterprises have virtually ceased their missile-related activities. The only missile-related activities these enterprises performed as of 2003 was the elimination of Ukraine's SS-24 ICBMs and the conversion of its solid rocket fuel into commercial high explosives. Once these missiles are eliminated, these facilities are likely to abandon large-scale participation in missile or space projects.[8] As of February 2009, however, due to U.S.-Belarusian disagreements on the particular method to employ in the rocket engine fuel extraction process, the target date for completion of the project at Pavlohrad Chemical Plant has reportedly been pushed back to 2011.[9]

Ukraine's missile industry also boasts the Khartron Corporation, which, during the Soviet era, was one of the pre-eminent designers and manufacturers of control and guidance systems for ballistic missiles, space launch vehicles, and space stations. Khartron systems were used on, among others, SS-18 and SS-19 ICBMs, which remain in Russian service. It remains active in a number of Ukrainian, Russian, and international space projects, including the International Space Station (ISS). However, Khartron was also extensively reorganized and diversified during the 1990s, and as of 2003, it was active in such fields as software design, telecommunications, and production of control systems for nuclear power plants. For the latter purpose, it created a joint venture with Westinghouse named Westron.[10]

Ukraine's missile industry remains largely state-owned. As of 2008, although shares in a number of enterprises have been auctioned off, the Ukrainian government retained the controlling share. Due to the importance of foreign revenue and investment to the preservation of Ukraine's missile industry, the Ukrainian government wants to attract such investments and appears to be willing to entertain the privatization of a number of enterprises. Preference appears to be given to Western sources of funding, as the government of Ukraine has on a number of occasions canceled sales of missile enterprise shares in order to prevent Russian firms from acquiring them.

[1] UNIAN, 6 April 1999; in "Consortium of Plants Transferred to National Space Agency," Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe.
[2] National Space Agency of Ukraine,
[3] Victor Mizin, Timothy McCarthy, unpublished manuscript, 2003.
[4] Victor Mizin, Timothy McCarthy, unpublished manuscript, 2003.
[5] Nikolai Sokov, "Ukrainian defense minister says his country will not acquire nuclear weapons; announces new missile program," WMD Insights, April 2006,
[6] "Ukraine Unveils Its 'Korshun' Missile," Air and Cosmos, 8 April 2005, OSC Document EUP20050412000084.
[7] Victor Mizin, Timothy McCarthy, unpublished manuscript, 2003.
[8] Victor Mizin, Timothy McCarthy, unpublished manuscript, 2003.
[9] "Ukraine, U.S. presidents to touch upon missile fuel utilization," ITAR-TASS, 27 March 2008, OSC Document CEP20080327950325.
[10] Victor Mizin, Timothy McCarthy, unpublished manuscript, 2003.

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  • Transferred the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world back to Russia after the Soviet collapse
  • Member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and Missile Technology Control Regime
  • No engagement in biological or chemical weapons activities since independence in 1991

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