Here Is Everything We Know (And Don’t) About Russia’s Mysterious ICBM Tests

Dave Majumdar

Security, Europe

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Here Is Everything We Know (And Don’t) About Russia’s Mysterious ICBM Tests

Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces tested a RS-12M Topol intercontinental ballistic missile on September 26. The missile was launched from Kapustin Yar to the Sary-Shagan test site.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the launch was designed “to test an advanced combat payload” which is designed to “overcome missile defenses.” The data gathered from the experiment will be used to develop future Russian ballistic missiles technology to counter missile defenses.

It is unclear what kind of system the Russians were testing.

“It’s some type of new warhead, but no new details available,” Vasily Kashin, a senior fellow at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics told The National Interest.

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“They have a stated goal to overcome any missile defenses which can be possibly created in the foreseeable future.”

Pavel Podvig, director of the Russian Nuclear Forces Project, told The National Interest that there is not enough data to say for sure what the Russians are up to, but he does not believe that they are testing a maneuvering reentry vehicle (MaRV).

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“I don’t think we know enough to say what that Topol test was about,” Podvig said.

“I would doubt it was a MaRV test. More likely it was a test of decoys and other penetration aids. It is more difficult to say what was the earlier Yars launch. Probably not decoys – Kura doesn’t have radars that would allow evaluating their effectiveness. But the MoD said these were experimental warheads.”

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Former Soviet nuclear negotiator Nikolai Sokov, now a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey told The National Interest that while there are no details, it is possible it could have been a MaRV.

“Yes, that launch looked like one. I would not say, however, it was an ‘attempt.’ Work has been progressing for quite some time now with the first test of the maneuvering warhead conducted in 2004,” Sokov said.

“Very briefly and to the best of my knowledge: the program was launched in mid-1980s as part of response to Star Wars, reached prototype stage by 1990-91, then shelved, then resurrected in…

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