Strategic Missile Troops

"Strategic Rocket Forces" redirects here. For other uses, see Strategic Rocket Forces (disambiguation).
Ракетные войска стратегического назначения
Raketnye voyska strategicheskogo naznacheniya
Strategic Missile Troops

SRF emblem and flag
Active December 17, 1959 – present
Country Russian Federation (earlier – Soviet Union)
Role Strategic Missile Deterrence
Size ~18,000[1]
Headquarters Vlasikha, 2.5 km northwest of Odintsovo, Moscow Oblast

"После нас - тишина"

("After us it is silence")
Anniversaries 17 December
Colonel General Sergei Karakayev
Great Emblem

The Strategic Missile Troops or Strategic Rocket Forces of the Russian Federation or RVSN RF[2] are a military branch of the Russian Armed Forces that controls Russia's land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The RVSN was first formed in the Soviet Armed Forces, and when the USSR collapsed in 1990–1991, it effectively changed its name from the Soviet to the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces or Strategic Missile Troops.

The Strategic Rocket Forces were created on December 17, 1959 as the main Soviet force used for attacking an enemy's offensive nuclear weapons, military facilities, and industrial infrastructure.[3] They operated all Soviet nuclear ground-based intercontinental, intermediate-range ballistic missile, and medium-range ballistic missile with ranges over 1,000 kilometers. Complementary strategic forces within Russia are the Long Range Aviation and the Russian Navy's ballistic missile submarines.


The first Soviet rocket study unit was established in June 1946, by redesignating the 92nd Guards Mortar Regiment at Bad Berka in East Germany as the 22nd Brigade for Special Use of the Reserve of the Supreme High Command.[4] On October 18, 1947 the brigade conducted the first launch of the remanufactured former German A-4 ballistic missile, or R-1, from the Kapustin Yar Range.[5] In the early 1950s the 77th and 90th Brigades were also formed to operate the R-1 (SS-1a 'Scunner'). The 54th and 56th Brigades were formed to conduct test launches of the R-2 (SS-2 'Sibling') at Kapustin Yar on June 1, 1952.

From 1959 the Soviets introduced a number of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) into service, including the R-12 (SS-4 'Sandal'), the R-7 (SS-6 'Sapwood'), the R-16 (SS-7 'Saddler'), the R-9 (SS-8 'Sasin'), the R-26 (given the NATO reporting name SS-8 'Sasin' due to incorrect identification as the R-9), the R-36 (SS-9 'Scarp'), and the RT-21 (SS-16 'Sinner'), which was possibly never made fully operational. By 1990 all these early types of missiles had been retired from service. This was the very year that the Strategic Missile Troops were officially established as a service branch of the Armed Forces under the direct control of the Defense Ministry. The date of its formal foundation, December 17, is celebrated as Strategic Missile Troops Day.

Two rocket armies were formed in 1960. The 43rd Rocket Army and the 50th Rocket Army were formed from the previous 43rd and 50th Air Armies of the Long Range Aviation.

During a test of the R-16 ICBM on October 24, 1960, the test missile exploded on the pad, killing the first commander of the SRF, Chief Marshal of Artillery Mitrofan Ivanovich Nedelin. This disaster, the details of which were concealed for decades, became known as the Nedelin catastrophe. He was succeeded by Marshal of the Soviet Union Kirill Moskalenko, who in turn was succeeded quickly by Marshal Sergey Biryuzov.[6] Under Marshal Вiryuzov the SRF deployed missiles to Cuba in 1962 as part of Operation Anadyr. 36 R-12 intermediate range ballistic missiles were sent to Cuba, initiating the Cuban Missile Crisis. The 43rd Guards Missile Division of 43rd Rocket Army manned the missiles while in Cuba.[7]

Marshal Nikolai Krylov then took over in March 1963 and served until February 1972. During this time French President Charles de Gaulle visited the Strategic Rocket Forces in 1966. Together with NI Krylov, he visited a missile division in Novosibirsk, and then at the invitation of Leonid Brezhnev participated in a demonstration missile launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Kazakh SSR. Chief Marshal of Artillery Vladimir Fedorovich Tolubko commanded the SRF from April 12, 1972 to July 10, 1985. Tolubko emphasised raising the physical fitness standards within the SRF. He was succeeded by General of the Army Yury Pavlovich Maksimov, who commanded from July 10, 1985 to August 19, 1992.

According to a 1980 TIME Magazine article citing analysts from RAND Corporation, Soviet non-Slavs were generally barred from joining the Strategic Rocket Forces because of suspicions of loyalty of ethnic minorities to the Kremlin.[8]

U.S. DOD map of Soviet ICBM bases, 1980s

In 1989 the Strategic Rocket Forces had over 1,400 ICBMs, 300 launch control centers, and twenty-eight missile bases.[9] The SMT also operated RSD-10 (SS-20 'Saber') intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) and R-12 (SS-4 'Sandal') medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs). Two-thirds of the road-mobile Soviet RSD-10 force was based in the western Soviet Union and was aimed at Western Europe. One-third of the force was located east of the Ural Mountains and was targeted primarily against China. Older R-12 missiles were deployed at fixed sites in the western Soviet Union. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in December 1987, called for the elimination of all 553 Soviet RSD-10 and R-12 missiles within three years. As of mid-1989, over 50% of RSD-10 and R-12 missiles had been eliminated.

By 1990 the Soviet Union had seven types of operational ICBMs; about 50% were heavy R-36M (SS-18 'Satan') and UR-100N (SS-19 'Stilleto') ICBMs, which carried 80% of the country's land-based ICBM warheads. By this time it was also producing new mobile, and hence survivable ICBMs, the RT-23 (SS-24 'Scalpel') and RT-2PM (SS-25 'Sickle'). In 1990, with the R-12 apparently fully retired, the IISS reported that there were 350 UR-100s (SS-11 'Sego,' Mod 2/3), 60 RT-2s (SS-13 'Savage') still in service in one missile field, 75 UR-100MRs (SS-17 'Spanker,' Mod 3, with 4 MIRV), 308 R-36Ms (mostly Mod 4 with 10 MIRV), 320 UR-100Ns (mostly Mod 3 with 6 MIRV), some 60 RT-23s (silo and rail-mobile), and some 225 RT-2PMs (mobile).[10]

Composition of the Strategic Rocket Forces 1960–1991[11]

Formation Headquarters Location Year formed as Corps Year formed as Army Year disbanded[6] Divisions
27th Guards Rocket ArmyHQ Vladimir, Moscow Military District01.09.59 1970 Still active 7th Guards Rocket Division, 28th Guards Rocket Division, (32 [12]), 54th Guards Rocket Division, 60th Rocket Division
31st Rocket Army Orenburg, Urals Military District 05.09.65 1970 Still active 8th, 13th, 14th, (41), 42nd, 50, 52, (55), 59
33rd Guards Rocket Army Omsk, Siberian Military District 1962 1970 Still active 23, (34), 35th, 36th Guards, 38, 39th Guards, 57, 62
43rd Rocket Army[13] Vinnitsa, Kiev Military District 1960 May 8, 1996 19 (Khmelnitsky), 37th Guards (Lutsk), 43 (Kremenchug), 44 (Kolomyia, Ivano-Frankovsk Oblast, disbanded March 31, 1990. Previously 73rd Engineer Brigade RVGK at Kamyshin.),[14] 46 (Pervomaisk, Mykolaiv Oblast)
50th Rocket ArmySmolensk, Belorussian Military District 1960 June 30, 1990 1988:[6] 7th Guards, 24th Guards (Gvardeysk, Kaliningrad Oblast),[15] 31st Guards (former 83rd Guards Bryansko-Berlinskaya Aviation (Missile) Division, renumbered July 1, 1960), 32nd (Postavy, Vitebsk Oblast), 40th, 49th Guards (Lida, Grodno Region, 1963 to 1990), 58th (Karmelava, Lithuania)
53rd Rocket Army[16] Chita, Transbaikal Military District 1962 June 8, 1970 Sept. 16, 2002 1988:[6] 4th Missile Division (Drovyanaya, Chita Oblast),[17] 23rd Guards Missile Division (Kansk, assigned 1983–2002), 27th Rocket Division (Svobodnyy, Amur Oblast), 29th, 36th Guards, 47th Rocket Division (Olovyannaya, Chita Oblast)[18]

Like most of the Russian military, the Strategic Rocket Forces have had limited access to resources for new equipment in the Yeltsin era. However, the Russian government has made a priority of ensuring that the Rocket Forces receive new missiles to phase out older, less-reliable systems, and to incorporate newer capabilities in the face of international threats to the viability of the nuclear deterrent effect provided by their missiles, in particular the development of missile defense systems in the United States.

In 1995, the decree of the President of Russia № 1239 from December 10, 1995 "On establishing the Day of the Strategic Rocket Forces Day and Military Space Forces Day" was promulgated. On July 16, 1997, President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree incorporating the Russian Space Forces and the Space Missile Defence Forces (Russian: Ракетно-космической обороны) into the SMT.[19] In doing so, 'nearly 60' military units and establishments were dissolved. However, four years later, on June 1, 2001, the Russian Space Forces were reformed as a separate branch of service from the SMT.

Minister of Defence Marshal of the Russian Federation Igor Sergeev, a former commander of the SMT from August 19, 1992 – May 22, 1997, played a major role in assuring funding for his former service.[6] He was succeed by General of the Army Vladimir Yakovlev, who commanded the SMT from June 1997 until April 27, 2001. Yakovlev was succeeded by Colonel General Nikolay Solovtsov (ru:Соловцов, Николай Евгеньевич), appointed the same day. In early 2009 Solovtsov said that 96% of all Russian ICBMs are ready to be launched within a minute's notice.[20] Solovtsov was dismissed in turn in July–August 2009. Speculation over why Solovtsov was dismissed includes opposition to further cuts in deployed nuclear ballistic missile warheads below the April 2009 figure of 1,500, the fact that he had reached the retirement age of 60, despite that he had recently been extended another year's service, or the failure of the Navy's Bulava missile).[21] After only a year, Lieutenant General Andrey Shvaichenko, appointed on August 3, 2009 by President Dmitry Medvedev, was replaced himself. The current commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, Colonel General Sergei Karakayev, was appointed to the post by a presidential decree of June 22, 2010.[22][23]

RVSN headquarters has a special sledgehammer that can be used to gain access to the launch codes if the commander feels the need to use these, but doesn't have normal access to the safe.[24]

Composition in 2010s

According to Jane's Defence Weekly, the RVSN main command post is at Kuntsevo in the suburbs of Moscow, with the alternate command post at Kosvinsky Mountain in the Urals.[25]

Female cadets have now started to join the Peter the Great Strategic Rocket Forces Academy.[26] RVSN institutes also exist at Serpukhov and Rostov-on-Don. An ICBM test impact range is located in the Far East, the Kura Test Range, although this has been part of the Aerospace Defence Forces since 2010.

The Strategic Rocket Forces operate four distinct missile systems. The oldest system is the silo-based R-36M2 / SS-18 Satan which carries ten warheads, the last missile will be in service until 2020. The second system is the silo-based UR-100NUTTH / SS-19 Stiletto, the last missiles in service with six warheads each will be removed by 2017. The most numerous missile in service is the single warhead mobile RT-2PM Topol / SS-25 Sickle which have 72 missiles in service, all of them are planned to be decommissioned by 2019.[27][28] A new missile entering service is the RT-2UTTH Topol-M / SS-27 Sickle B with single warhead, from which 60 are silo-based and 19 are mobile. Some new missiles will be added in future. First upgraded Topol-M called RS-24 Yars, carrying three warheads, was commissioned in 2010 and in July 2011 the first mobile regiment with 9 missiles was completed.[29] In 2013-2015, over 50 ICBMs were placed in active duty.[30]

The composition of missiles and warheads of the Strategic Rocket Forces previously had to be revealed as part of the START I treaty data exchange. The current (January 2016) order of battle of the forces is as follows:[31]

Numbers of missiles and warheads

Launch authorization device

The Strategic Rocket Forces have:[31]

This gives Russia a total fleet of 299 land-based ICBMs with around 902 nuclear warheads, much more than the US fleet of 450 Minuteman-III ICBMs with 450 warheads. Meanwhile, the US possess 1152 nuclear warheads deployed on SLBMs while Russia only deploys approximately 512 weapons on SLBMs.

See also


  2. Russian: Ракетные войска стратегического назначения Российской Федерации (РВСН РФ), transliteration: Raketnye voyska strategicheskogo naznacheniya Rossiyskoy Federatsii, literally Missile Troops of Strategic Designation of the Russian Federation.
  3. This foundation date is shared with the Russian Space Forces (VKS) by the President of Russian Federation Decree N.1239 dated December 10, 1995
  4. Michael Holm, 24th Guards Rocket Division, accessed December 2013.
  5. RVSN – Strategic Rocket Forces – Russian and Soviet Nuclear Forces
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Mike Holm, Strategic Rocket Forces
  7. National Security Archive,
  8. [The U.S.S.R.: Moscow's Military Machine The U.S.S.R.: Moscow's Military Machine], TIME Magazine, June 23, 1980
  9. Library of Congress Soviet Union Country Study, 1989
  10. IISS Military Balance 1990–91, p.34
  11. Feskov, V.I.; Kalashnikov, K.A.; Golikov, V.I. (2004). The Soviet Army in the Years of the Cold War 1945–91. Tomsk: Tomsk University Publishing House. p. 132. ISBN 5-7511-1819-7.
  12. "32nd Missile Division". Retrieved 2012-10-09.
  13. Archived November 11, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. Holm, 44th Missile Division
  15. Previously 92 BON, then given the combined-arms designation of 22nd RVGK special-purpose brigade, then 72nd RVGK Engineer Brigade, and in 1960 the 24th Guards Division of the RVSN was formed on its basis.
  16. Formed Chita in 1970 from the 8th Independent Missile Corps, under Colonel-General Yury Zabegaylov. Included 45th Missile Division (disbanded 1970).
  17. Activated 5.60 in Nerchinsk, Chita Oblast as the 119th Missile Brigade, from the 116th Artillery Brigade. Initially under the 57th Artillery Range Administration, and from 3.61 the 8th independent Missile Corps. May 1961 renamed the 4th Missile Division. Named Harbinskaya 10.61, from the disbanded 46th Tank Division. 4th Missile Division
  18. 47th Missile Division
  19. Greg Austin and Alexiy D. Muraviev, The Armed Forces of Russia in Asia, Tauris, 2001, p.185-6
  20. Russia can launch ICBMs at minute's notice – missile forces chief | Russia | RIA Novosti
  21. "Russian Missile Chief Fired Amid Speculation". RIA Novosti. August 3, 2009. Retrieved September 24, 2009.
  22. Pavel Podvig, Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, accessed September 2010
  23. Указ Президента Российской Федерации от 09.08.2012 № 1141 "О присвоении воинских званий высших офицеров военнослужащим Вооруженных Сил Российской Федерации" [Decree of the President of the Russian Federation dated 09.08.2012 number 1141 "About the assignment of ranks of senior officers of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation"] (in Russian). 9 August 2012. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  24. "Russian Missile Forces Have 'Safe Busting' Sledgehammer." Archived June 30, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. RIA Novosti, 6 June 2012.
  25. Jane's Defence Weekly June 25, 1994, 32, via Austin and Muraviev, The Armed Forces of Russia in Asia, 2001.
  26. "Библиотека изображений "РИА Новости" :: Галерея". Retrieved 2012-10-09.
  27. Topol might stay in service until 2019. "Topol might stay in service until 2019 - Blog - Russian strategic nuclear forces". Retrieved 2012-10-09.
  28. Launch of Topol to confirm missile life extension. "Launch of Topol to confirm missile life extension - Blog - Russian strategic nuclear forces". Retrieved 2012-10-09.
  29. Deployment of the first full regiment of RS-24 is completed. "Deployment of the first full regiment of RS-24 is completed - Blog - Russian strategic nuclear forces". Retrieved 2012-10-09.
  31. 1 2 Strategic Rocket Forces – Russian strategic nuclear forces
  32. RS-24 deployment in Teykovo, Novosibirsk, and Kozelsk. "RS-24 deployment in Teykovo, Novosibirsk, and Kozelsk - Blog - Russian strategic nuclear forces". Retrieved 2012-10-09.
  33. "Russian hypersonic vehicle - more dots added to Project 4202". 26 August 2014. Retrieved 18 January 2015.

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