Draft report, comments appreciated...
A low-key military affairs article in Izvestia in mid-May apparently passed largely unnoticed by Western observers of Moscow’s military
missile/space programs. But even if the quoted expert in that story is wrong [as he might be], the story’s significance could be very high, even –
most dramatically – cosmic in scale, impacting US/Russian relations aboard the International Space Station.
The Russian Defense Ministry had announced a reduction in warhead test launches of decommissioned Topol ICBMs for the next two years, from a previous
annual rate of 7, to 3 per year. A Russian military affairs commentator told Izvestiya that this indicated that the defense-evading warhead [that by
my count has been tested on 15 flights over the past nine years] must have been cancelled in preference to a hypersonic warhead system called
‘Avangard’ [‘Vanguard’ in English], to be installed on a new-generation ICBM named ‘Sarmat’, still under development.
The article appeared in Izvestia on May 15, here.
I am not impressed by the expert’s analysis, and will explain why, below.
The two operative paragraphs of the story [with my translation] follow:
Также в последние годы состоялись пуски ракет «Тополь-Э» с экспериментальной
боеголовкой. Для этого использовался полигон Капустин Яр в Астраханской области.
В этом случае, по словам главного редактора интернет-проекта MilitaryRussia Дмитрия
Корнева, основной целью были испытания новых средств доставки боевой части и
экспериментального оснащения межконтинентальных баллистических ракет. Речь
идет об эффективном преодолении перспективных систем противоракетной обороны.
Ракеты поражали учебные цели на испытательном полигоне Сары-Шаган в Казахстане,
оборудованном необходимыми средствами.
— Сокращение пусков «Тополей», по всей видимости, объясняется решением
прекратить дальнейшие работы по созданию новых управляемых боевых блоков.
Причины понятны. Они связаны с началом серийного производства неуязвимых для ПРО
гиперзвуковых боевых блоков «Авангард». Об этом 1 марта президент РФ Владимир
Путин рассказал в послании Федеральному собранию. «Авангард» — конкурирующая
система для блоков, которые разрабатывались для «Тополей», — сообщил «Известиям»
Also in recent years, there were launches of the "Topol-E" missiles with experimental warheads. For this purpose the Kapustin Yar facility in the
Astrakhan region was used. In this case, according to the main editor of the Internet project Militaryrussia Dmitry Kornev, the main goal was to test
new means of delivery of combat and experimental equipment of intercontinental ballistic missiles. The talk was about finding an effective means for
overcoming potential missile defense systems. The rockets hit training targets at the Sary-Shagan test site in Kazakhstan, which is equipped with the
Dmitry Kornev told Izvestia, “The reduction of Topol launches seems to be due to the decision to stop further work on the creation of these new
steerable warheads. The reasons are clear. They are connected with the beginning of serial production of unstoppable Avangard hypersonic warheads. On
March 1 Russian President Vladimir Putin told the Federal Assembly about this in a message. ‘Avangard’ is a competing system for the warheads that
were developed for the Topols”.
end of translated passage
I have been following this test series closely nearly since it began, because for reasons still not entirely clear it has been visually spectacular.
Consequently, in the age of pocketcams [and dashcams] and the Internet, this made the tests one of the most frequent contributors to ‘UFO videos’
from Russia- Literally thousands of videos from witnesses in the region have been posted since 2009.
To test the warhead against radars at a Russian base in Kazakhstan, the missile follows a bizarre path. Launched by its first two stages, it lofts and
coasts for three minutes and then turns downwards, firing its third stage to push the warhead at a speed and angle of normal 10,000 mile flight, but
only 1500 miles from the launch site. This ejects a rocket plume aimed largely upwards, that hangs in the sky for a minute or two before dissipating.
And HALF of the test missions were launched under twilight conditions, making them very visible as they were sunlit while diving back into the dark
skies of the target region.
The series started with a bang, it’s first launch was shortly after the sensational ‘Norway spiral UFO’ that greeted President Obama’s trip to
Oslo to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. I have explained why that was another Russian ICBM test program here, probably made spectacular by a rare
twilight apparition of 3rd stage thrust-dumping to avoid overshooting the Kamchatka target zone.
For convenience I have designated these Topol warhead test missions as “Kapustin Yar to Sary Shagan Topols”, or as an acronym, KYSS-T, and
describe the fifteen known missions in this recent report.
With this background, here are the issues I have with the Izvestia story – even assuming the Topol launch rate cutback is accurate. I also assume
that reporters Yevgeniy Devyaterov and Aleksey Ramm [Евгений Девятьяров and Алексей Рамм] accurately quoted Kornev’s
I think Kornev is incorrect in his assertion that the warhead tested on the Topols was designed for deployment on the Topols, and was cancelled when
it lost out to a competing design. The aging Topol system is being phased out – that’s why there have been dozens of decommissioned missiles
available for testing. Some were for verification of lifetime-extension modifications, some for other purposes related to future warheads for newer
Since there has never been a secret that the tests involved a defense-evading warhead, with the announcement by Putin that operational warheads are
now being fabricated, the assumed cessation of the Topol tests instead suggests the Avangard was that tested warhead. IF this is true [not yet
proven], this makes analysis of warhead performance parameters of those tests particularly important for US intelligence agencies concerned with
estimating accuracy and reliability of what might become the mainstay of Russia’s nuclear strike force for decades to come.
Several years ago, Russian journalists reported that these tests were occurring deep inside Russia’s borders [and not from Plesetsk in far
northwestern Russia] purposely in order to be far from the prying eyes of American observers. This boast proved to be particularly ironic considering
the hundreds of clear videos of the warhead tests subsequently captured and posted by RUSSIANS themselves.
And it wasn’t just Russians [and Kazakhis, and Tadzhikis, Armenians, and other citizens of neighboring countries] who saw the top secret tests. In a
supreme [almost cosmic!] irony, on October 10, 2013, one test [the 6th] was captured accidentally but in excruciating detail by another startled [but
far-from-stunned] witness with an exclusive vantage point – an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, viewing the entire reentry sequence
backlit by the recently-set sun. Overview report: www.jamesoberg.com...
Detailed report: satobs.org...