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Bulletin

of the

Atomic

Scientists

DOI: 10.2968/066001010

ong>Russianong> ong>nuclearong> ong>forcesong>, 2010

With or without a follow-on agreement to

START, the number of warheads in the

ong>Russianong> ong>nuclearong> arsenal continues to shrink.

But that doesn’t mean Moscow has given

up modernizing its strategic ong>nuclearong> ong>forcesong>.

By Robert S. Norris & Hans M. Kristensen

IT IS 5 MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT

www.thebulletin.org

The landmark strategic arms reduction treaty

(START) between the United States and Russia expired on

December 5, 2009. Negotiations are in the final phase on

a follow-on treaty intended to reduce deployed strategic

warheads to between 1,500 and 1,675 and strategic launchers to between

500 and 1,100. When the follow-on treaty is signed, it will enter

into force after ratification by the ong>Russianong> Duma and U.S. Senate.

Although the follow-on treaty will further reduce Moscow’s strategic

ong>forcesong>, strategic ong>nuclearong> force modernization is still a priority

in Russia. In a November 2009 speech to the Federal Assembly,

President Dmitry Medvedev said that in 2010 the ong>Russianong> military

would receive “more than 30 ballistic land- and sea-based missiles”

and three ong>nuclearong> submarines. 1

A new National Security Strategy, drafted in May 2009, clarified

Russia’s ong>nuclearong> weapons employment policy. Security Council

Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, apparently the main author of

the document, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta that the new strategy

“stipulates the possibility of the employment of ong>nuclearong> weapons

depending on the conditions of the situation and the probable

enemy’s intentions. The conduct of a ong>nuclearong> strike against an aggressor,

including a preemptive strike, is not ruled out in critical

situations for national security.” 2 This calculated ambiguity is similar

to U.S. ong>nuclearong> employment policy.

We estimate that as of late 2009, Russia had approximately 4,600

ong>nuclearong> warheads in its operational arsenal: roughly 2,600 strategic

warheads and 2,000 nonstrategic warheads—a slight decrease from

last year’s levels. An additional 7,300 warheads are estimated to be

in reserve or awaiting dismantlement, for a total of approximately

12,000 ong>nuclearong> warheads, which we believe are located at 48 per-

®

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | WWW.THEBULLETIN.ORG January/February 2010 74


manent storage sites (see “Nuclear Notebook: Worldwide Deployments

of Nuclear Weapons, 2009,” November/December 2009 Bulletin).

3

Ongoing maintenance and reliability of the ong>Russianong> ong>nuclearong>

stockpile is contingent upon the periodic reproduction of warheads,

in contrast to the U.S. practice of extending service lives of existing

warheads through the Stockpile Stewardship ong>Programong>. More

in line with U.S. practices, Medvedev declared in July 2009 that by

2011 Russia would develop supercomputers to test the effectiveness

of its ong>nuclearong> deterrent. 4 Some have alleged that Russia has secretly

conducted low-yield ong>nuclearong> tests, but the evidence is ambiguous

and the issue remains controversial.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Russia deploys

nearly 1,100 ong>nuclearong> warheads on 331 ICBMs of six types. The newest

type comes in three variants or modifications of the SS-27 ICBM:

a silo-based single warhead and a mobile single warhead (both Topol-M,

or Mod. 1), along with a mobile warhead equipped with multiple

independently targetable reentry vehicles (RS-24). Each RS-24,

which was first deployed in 2009, is estimated to carry four or more

warheads. Deployment of the silo-based SS-27 has reached 50 operational

missiles, organized into five regiments, with 10 more missiles

expected. Eighteen mobile SS-27s are operational and deployed

at the 54th missile regiment at Teykovo (northeast of Moscow).

Russia continues to retire large numbers of older ICBMs due to

their age and to meet the limits of the Moscow Treaty. It withdrew

about 30 SS-25s from service in 2009, leaving approximately 150 deployed.

If it sustains this retirement rate, Moscow will retire all SS-

25s by 2015. Two SS-25s were flight-tested in 2009, on April 20 and

December 10, respectively. Approximately 10 SS-19s were retired in

2009, leaving about 60. We anticipate that all but the 20 newest SS-

19s will be withdrawn by 2012; the remaining missiles will be in service

until about 2015 or longer. Russia cut about 20 SS-18s in 2009,

leaving approximately 50 missiles in the force. We estimate that all

but the 30 newest SS-18s will be retired over the next few years. The

remaining SS-18s will be retired before 2020. 5

Nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). Russia

has 10 active SSBNs: six Delta IVs and four Delta IIIs. They are

equipped with 160 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs)

that carry an estimated 576 warheads. The six Delta IVs are part of

the Northern Fleet based at Yagelnaya Bay on the Kola Peninsula;

the four Delta IIIs are based at Rybachiy on the Kamchatka Peninsula

as part of the Pacific Fleet and will eventually be replaced by

the Borey-class SSBN.

The development of the Borey-class submarine and its accompanying

Bulava SLBM has not been smooth. The first boat, Yuri

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | WWW.THEBULLETIN.ORG January/February 2010 75


RUSSIAN NUCLEAR FORCES, 2010

TYPE NAME LAUNCHERS YEAR DEPLOYED WARHEADS X YIELD (KILOTONS) TOTAL WARHEADS

STRATEGIC OFFENSIVE WEAPONS

ICBMs

SS-18 Satan 50 1979 10 x 500/800 500

SS-19 Stiletto 60 1980 6 x 400 360

SS-25 Sickle 150 1985 1 x 800 150

SS-27 (Mod. 1) (Topol-M, silo) 50 1997 1 x 800 50

SS-27 (Mod. 1) (Topol-M, mobile) 18 2006 1 x 800? 18

SS-27 (Mod. 2) (rS-24) 3 2009 ~4 x 400? 12

SUBTOTAL 331 1,090

SLBMs

SS-n-18 M1 Stingray 4/64 1978 3 x 50 (MIrV) 192

SS-n-23 Skiff 2/48 1986 4 x 100 (MIrV) 128

SS-n-23 M1 Sineva 4/48 2007 4 x 100 (MIrV) 1 256

SS-n-32 bulava-30 (1/16) ~2010 6 x 100 (MIrV) 0

SUBTOTAL 10/160 576

Bombers/weapons

Tu-95 MS6 bear H6 31 1984 6 x aS-15a aLCMs, bombs 186

Tu-95 MS16 bear H16 31 1984 16 x aS-15a aLCMs, bombs 496

Tu-160 blackjack 13 1987 12 x aS-15b aLCMs or aS-16

SraMs, bombs

SUBTOTAL 75 838

SUBTOTAL STRATEGIC OFFENSIVE FORCES ~2,600

156

NONSTRATEGIC AND DEFENSIVE WEAPONS

ABM/Air defense

53T6 Gazelle 68 1986 1 x 1,000/10 68 2

Sa-10 Grumble 1,900 1980 1 x low 630

Land-based air

bombers/fighters ~524 aSM, bombs 650

Naval

Submarines/surface ships/air

SLCM, aSW, SaM, aSM, Db,

torpedoes

700

SUBTOTAL NONSTRATEGIC AND DEFENSIVE FORCES ~2,000 3

TOTAL ~4,600 4

1. The Sineva probably carries at least four MIrVed warheads. u.S. intelligence in 2006 estimated that

the missile can carry “up to 10” warheads.

2. all Gorgon missiles apparently have been removed from the abM system.

3. We estimate that an additional 3,300 nonstrategic warheads are in reserve or awaiting dismantlement,

leaving a total inventory of approximately 5,300 nonstrategic warheads.

4. We estimate that an additional 7,300 intact warheads are in reserve or awaiting dismantlement, for a

total inventory of approximately 12,000 warheads.

abM: antiballistic missile

aLCM: air-launched cruise missile

aSM: air-to-surface missile

aSW: antisubmarine weapon

Db: Depth bomb

ICbM: Intercontinental ballistic missile

MIrV: Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle

SaM: Surface-to-air missile

SLbM: Submarine-launched ballistic missile

SLCM: Sea-launched cruise missile

SraM: Short-range attack missile

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | WWW.THEBULLETIN.ORG January/February 2010 76


Dolgoruki, has been under development for more than 10 years,

and the Bulava (SS-N-32) had test failures in 2008 and 2009. Each

Borey-class SSBN will be equipped with 16 Bulava SLBMs, which

have a range of 8,000 –9,000 kilometers and can carry up to six

warheads. The Yuri Dolgoruki conducted sea trials in 2009, but

given the multiple failures of the Bulava missile, it is unclear when

the SSBN will become operational. Delivery of the second Boreyclass

SSBN, the Alexander Nevsky, has been delayed until 2010 at

the earliest. A third, tentatively named Vladimir Monomakh, is

scheduled to be completed in 2012 but also might be delayed. The

keel of a fourth boat was scheduled to be laid down in December

2009, but that, too, has been delayed. “Starting with the fourth

submarine, we will begin modernizing this class,” navy officials

said in 2008. The modernized Borey will be “the core of ong>Russianong>

naval ong>nuclearong> ong>forcesong> until 2040.” 6

As part of its naval modernization plans, Moscow is upgrading

the Delta IVs by equipping them to carry the Sineva SLBM, an improved

version of the SS-N-23 missile. Three submarines (the Bryansk,

Tula, and Yekaterinburg) have completed their upgrades; a

fourth (Karelia) is nearing completion, and a fifth (Novomoskovsk)

began its modernization in 2009.

Russia conducted seven SLBM test-launches in 2009, culminating

with the failure of the Bulava SLBM on December 9—the missile’s

second malfunction of the year. Depending on the criteria of

success, only one out of a total of 12 tests may have been fully successful.

Given this performance, the future of the Bulava seems to be

in doubt. The Sineva SLBM, which was test-launched from the Bryansk

on July 13 and 14, was more successful. 7 From a position near

the North Pole, the first missile was test-launched with the Kura test

range on the Kamchatka Peninsula as its target, while the second test

had a compressed trajectory and hit the Chizha test range in northeastern

Russia. A task force of several ong>nuclearong>-powered attack submarines

apparently accompanied the Bryansk for protection, and a

source within the ong>Russianong> Navy said the operation “proves that the

ong>Russianong> Navy has retained the capability of moving under Arctic

ice and striking targets while undetected.” 8 A third Sineva was testlaunched

from the Bryansk on November 1, and two SS-N-18 SLBMs

were test-launched from two Pacific-based Delta IIIs—Sv. Georgiy

Pobedonosets and Ryazan, on October 6 and 7, respectively.

After we reported that ong>Russianong> SSBNs conducted 10 patrols in

2008, a source in the ong>Russianong> Navy General Staff told RIA Novosti,

“Up to 10 submarines are conducting various missions around the

globe, including training and combat patrol missions with ong>nuclearong>

weapons onboard.” 9 Two ong>Russianong> Akula-class attack submarines

conducted a rare patrol off the U.S. Eastern Seaboard in August

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | WWW.THEBULLETIN.ORG January/February 2010 77


In 2009, Moscow kept busy with longrange

strategic bomber operations, which it

increased two years earlier. Shortly before

President Barack Obama’s visit to Canada in

February, Canadian F-18 aircraft intercepted

a ong>Russianong> long-range bomber over the

Beaufort Sea (in the Arctic Ocean north of

Alaska and Canada), about 125 miles from

Canadian territory.

2009. Even though these submarines are very quiet—similar to U.S.

Los Angeles-class attack boats—the U.S. antisubmarine ong>forcesong> apparently

had no problem monitoring them.

Strategic bombers. Russia deploys 75 strategic bombers—13

Tu-160 Blackjacks, 31 Tu-95 MS6 Bear H6s, and 31 Tu-95 MS16 Bear

H16s—although not all of them are fully

operational. Over the last year, Russia has

withdrawn one Tu-160 and one Tu-95 MS6.

A small number of Tu-160 and Tu-95 aircraft

are receiving major modernizations

to their targeting and navigation systems,

perhaps aimed at adding conventional capabilities

to expand their military utility. 10

ong>Russianong> strategic bombers are equipped

to carry an assortment of ong>nuclearong> bombs

as well as the ong>nuclearong> AS-15A (Kh-55) airlaunched

cruise missile. Russia has been

developing an advanced ong>nuclearong> cruise

missile (Kh-102) for more than a decade, but it still is not deployed.

Moscow is converting some ong>nuclearong> AS-15As to conventional missiles,

similar to the U.S. conversion of ong>nuclearong> air-launched cruise

missiles to conventional cruise missiles. The ong>Russianong> conventional

missile is designated as Kh-555.

In 2009, Moscow kept busy with long-range strategic bomber operations,

which it increased two years earlier. Shortly before President

Barack Obama’s visit to Canada in February, Canadian F-18 aircraft

intercepted a ong>Russianong> long-range bomber over the Beaufort Sea

(in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska and Canada), about 125 miles

from Canadian territory. On August 5, two Tu-95s flew southwest between

Iceland and the Faroe Islands over the North Atlantic Ocean.

In November, two Tu-95 aircraft departed from Engels Air Force

Base in eastern Russia and flew north along the Arctic Ocean toward

the Aleutian Islands off Alaska, where two U.S. F-22s from Elmendorf

Air Force Base intercepted them. Also in November, according to

one report, two Tu-160 aircraft from Engels apparently flew along the

northern border of Russia and then over the Pacific Ocean before returning

to their base along Russia’s southern border. 11

Following the deployment of two ong>nuclearong>-capable long-range

bombers to Venezuela in September 2008, the ong>Russianong> news media

speculated that Russia might build base facilities there, something

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has denied. 12

Nonstrategic weapons. The ong>Russianong> government, like the U.S.

government, provides very little information about its inventory of

nonstrategic ong>nuclearong> warheads, which only encourages rumors and

distrust. Moscow has been reducing its nonstrategic warheads since

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | WWW.THEBULLETIN.ORG January/February 2010 78


1992 when then President Boris Yeltsin pledged that production of

warheads for ground-launched tactical missiles, artillery shells, and

mines had stopped and that all of those warheads would be eliminated.

He also pledged that Russia would dispose of one-half of its

tactical airborne and surface-to-air warheads, as well as one-third

of its tactical naval warheads. The ong>Russianong> Defense Ministry said

in 2007 that ground-force tactical ong>nuclearong> warheads had been eliminated;

air-defense tactical warheads reduced by 60 percent (10

percent more than Yeltsin pledged); air force tactical warheads reduced

by 50 percent; and naval tactical warheads reduced by 30 percent.

13 Many of the ong>Russianong> nonstrategic weapons are old and will

probably be retired in the near future.

We estimate that Moscow retains approximately 5,390 tactical

warheads, including 1,120 missile- and air-defense tactical warheads;

2,000 tactical warheads for its air force; and 2,270 naval tactical warheads.

Doubts have been raised that not all ground-launched tactical

warheads have been destroyed. More than one-third of these

warheads probably have some level of operational status; the remaining

weapons are in reserve or awaiting dismantlement.

Russia maintains a relatively large inventory of operational nonstrategic

naval ong>nuclearong> warheads—nearly 700 warheads that can

arm cruise missiles, antisubmarine weapons, anti-air missiles, or

torpedoes—for delivery by 280 submarines, surface ships, and

naval aircraft. (We believe that surface ships are no longer assigned

ong>nuclearong> torpedoes and that all tactical naval ong>nuclearong> weapons are

stored on land.) The new Severodvinsk-class ong>nuclearong>-powered attack

submarine is probably ong>nuclearong> capable, and Vice Adm. Oleg

Burtsev, deputy chief of the ong>Russianong> Navy General Staff, told RIA

Novosti in 2009, “Tactical ong>nuclearong> weapons [on submarines probably]

will play a key role in the future.” 14 He also said that increased

accuracy reduced the need for powerful warheads, so that Russia

“can install low-yield warheads on existing cruise missiles.”

Nearly 650 nonstrategic air-delivery warheads (AS-4 air-to-surface

missiles and a variety of bombs) are estimated to be operational.

Tu-22M Backfire bombers, which Russia considers as strategic

aircraft, can deliver both AS-4 missiles and bombs; Su-24 Fencer

fighter-bombers, which are being replaced by Su-34 Fullback fighterbombers,

can deliver only bombs. Some Tu-22M and Su-24 bombers

are being equipped with precision-guided conventional weapons.

Moscow is updating its SA-10 Grumble (S-300) air-defense system

to the SA-12 Growler (S-400) system, which reportedly has

some capability against ballistic missiles. Approximately 600 to 700

warheads are believed to be operational for use in the air-defense

system and the A-135 antiballistic missile system that surrounds

Moscow. At least one SA-12 regiment, which includes about eight

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | WWW.THEBULLETIN.ORG January/February 2010 79


launchers and 32 missiles, is deployed around Moscow; a second

was expected to become operational in 2008. Russia plans to deploy

at least 18 systems by 2015 that will form the core of its air and missile

defenses through at least 2020. 15 Test-launches of the short-range

Gazelle antiballistic missile interceptors, which are part of the A-135

system, were conducted in 2006, 2007, and 2009, partly as part of an

upgrade of the Pill Box (Don-2N) radar north of Moscow. <

Nuclear Notebook is prepared by Robert S. Norris of the Natural Resources

Defense Council and Hans M. Kristensen of the Federation of

American Scientists. Direct inquiries to NRDC, 1200 New York Avenue,

N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C., 20005 (or 202-289-6868).

Visit www.thebulletin.org for more ong>nuclearong> weapons data.

NOTES

1. Medvedev provided no details, but he was probably referring to Russia’s Sineva

and Bulava SLBMs, remaining Topol-M ICBMs, and new RS-24 ICBMs; the submarines

probably include the first Borey-class SSBN, a refitted Delta IV SSBN, and a

new attack submarine. Dmitry Medvedev, “Presidential Address to the Federation

Assembly of the ong>Russianong> Federation,” November 12, 2009. Available online at eng.

kremlin.ru/text/speeches/2009/11/12/1321_type70029type82912_222702.shtml.

2. Timofey Borisov, “Nikolay Patrushev: The Draft of the New Document, which

Defines the Country’s Defense Capability, Has Been Prepared,” Rossiyskaya Gazeta,

November 20, 2009.

3. Essential references for following ong>Russianong> strategic ong>nuclearong> ong>forcesong> include the

START Memorandum of Understanding released by the U.S. and ong>Russianong> governments

twice a year; the Open Source Center; Pavel Podvig’s website “ong>Russianong>

Strategic Nuclear Forces,” available online at www.russianong>forcesong>.org; and the database

“Russia: General Nuclear Weapons Developments,” maintained by the James

Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, available online at http://www.nti.

org/e_research/profiles/Russia/index.html.

4. Dmitry Medvedev, “Speech at Meeting of Commission for Modernization and

Technological Development of Russia’s Economy,” Sarov, July 22, 2009.

5. “Russia to Keep SS-18 Ballistic Missiles in Service until 2019,” RIA Novosti,

April 10, 2009.

6. Dmitry Solovyov, “Russia Plans New Carriers, Subs to Boost Navy,” Reuters,

July 27, 2008.

7. Some uncertainty exists as to whether the launches on July 13 and 14 were from

one or two submarines and whether it involved two Sineva or two different missiles.

8. “Russia Proves Effectiveness of Its Naval Nuclear Forces—Navy,” RIA Novosti,

July 15, 2009.

9. “Up to 10 ong>Russianong> Subs at Sea Around the World—Navy Source,” RIA Novosti,

March 20, 2009.

10. “Russia to Upgrade Strategic Bombers in 2009,” RIA Novosti, December 23,

2008.

11. Roger McDermott, “ong>Russianong> Strategic Bomber Flights: Long Range Deception,”

Jamestown Foundation, Eurasia Daily Monitor, vol. 6, no. 220 (December 1, 2009).

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | WWW.THEBULLETIN.ORG January/February 2010 80


12. “Venezuela: ong>Russianong> Bombers OK, But No Base,” Associated Press, March 16,

2009.

13. “Russia Determined to Keep Tactical Nuclear Arms for Potential Aggressors,”

Pravda, October 31, 2007.

14. “Russia Could Focus on Tactical Nuclear Weapons for Subs,” RIA Novosti,

March 23, 2009.

15. “Russia to Deploy Second S-400 Regiment Near Moscow in 2008,” RIA Novosti,

January 21, 2008; “Moscow to Deploy S-400 Air Defense Systems in Northwest

Russia,” RIA Novosti, February 7, 2008.

Robert S. Norris & Hans M. Kristensen, “ong>Russianong> ong>nuclearong> ong>forcesong>, 2010,” Bulletin of the

Atomic Scientists, January/February 2010, vol. 66, no. 1, pp. 74–81.

DOI: 10.2968/066001010

Copyright © 2010 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. All Rights Reserved.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | WWW.THEBULLETIN.ORG January/February 2010 81

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