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
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).
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
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
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
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
SUBTOTAL 75 838
SUBTOTAL STRATEGIC OFFENSIVE FORCES ~2,600
NONSTRATEGIC AND DEFENSIVE WEAPONS
53T6 Gazelle 68 1986 1 x 1,000/10 68 2
Sa-10 Grumble 1,900 1980 1 x low 630
bombers/fighters ~524 aSM, bombs 650
SLCM, aSW, SaM, aSM, Db,
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
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.
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.
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.
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,
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,
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.
Copyright © 2010 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. All Rights Reserved.
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists | WWW.THEBULLETIN.ORG January/February 2010 81