Index

The Formidable SS-18s Being Scrapped

Paris AIR & COSMOS/AVIATION INTERNATIONAL No 1483, 2 Sep 94
by Christian Lardier

The START agreements call for Russia to liquidate all of its intercontinental ballistic missiles equipped with multiple independently targeted nuclear warhead reentry vehicles [MIRVed ICBMs] by the year 2003. The first phase concerns the very old (NATO-coded) SS-11 Sego, SS-13 Savage, and SS-17 Spanker missiles. A second phase will include the SS-18 Satan, SS-19 Stiletto, and SS-24 Scalpel. At the same time, the single-warhead SS-25 Sickle missile will become the Russian nuclear arsenal's principal vector.

The SS-18 Satan (NATO code) or R-36B/RS-20 (Russian designation) is the successor of the SS-9 Scarp. It is a 2-stage missile using dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) and heptyl (a UDMH [unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine] compound). The first stage is powered by a 460-ton-thrust motor with four combustion chambers, and the second by a single-chamber 77-ton-thrust motor. It was built by the M. K. Yangel OKB Yuzhnoye at Dnepropetrovsk (Ukraine). Designed during 1966-1972, this third-generation ICBM was tested beginning in November 1972, deployed in January 1975, then integrated with the weapons arsenal in December 1975. There are five variants: the single-warhead, 24Mt Mod-1; the 550Kt, 8-warhead MIRVed Mod-2; the single-warhead, 20Mt Mod-3; the 500Kt, 10-warhead MIRVed Mod-4; and the 500Kt or 750Kt, 10-warhead MIRVed Mod-5. Each of the 308 missiles deployed in silos carried 10 warheads. These ICBMs were distributed among Dombarovsky-3 near Orenbourg (64), Kartaly-6 near Chelyabinsk (46), Uzhur-4 near Krasnoyarsk (64), Aleysk in Altai (30), Zhangiz-Tobe near Seminpalatinsk (52), and Derzhavinsk near Akmolinsk (52). Thus, 204 of these missiles were deployed on Russian territory and 104 in Kazakhstan.

The elimination base at Surovatikha, near Nijny-Novgorod, destroyed 32 missiles last year, but thus far has destroyed only 22 of the 44 due to be destroyed this year. Only 30 of the missiles deployed in Kazakhstan have arrived at the base. This delay has been observed by the American inspectors.

The SS-18 can be converted into Space Launcher 18K. Equipped with a third stage, it can place 4 tons in orbit at an altitude of 500 km and an inclination of 65°. This stage would be derived from the propulsion system of the Phobos probe. Built by NPO Lavochkin, it has a thrust of 2 tons and serves to launch the Tekos satellite. Another variant would use a stage of the SS-24 missile to place a payload of 800 kg in orbit at an altitude of 1,600 km, inclined at 90°. Built by Yuzhnoye, this stage is equipped with an RD-866 motor that includes a 500-kg thrust nozzle, and with sixteen vernier nozzles, each having a thrust of 11.8 kg. Still another variant is under study with a view to using the C5M third stage of the Cyclone rocket for orbits at altitudes of 500 and 1,500 km. Also built by Yuzhnoye, it is equipped with an RD-861 (or 11D25) motor having a thrust of 8 tons. The 18K Launcher could be launched from Baykonur by 1996. The famous cosmodrome is equipped with 10 silos for the SS-18. Despite the efforts being made by Yuzhnoye to market the idea, however, no contract has been signed as yet, and Lavochkin's projects still lack financing (cf. AIR & COSMOS No. 1474).

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|Characteristics of the SS-18 and 18K                                         |
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|Characteristics          |R36N Missile             |18K Launcher             |
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|Number of stages         |2                        |3                        |
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|Height (m)               |36.5                     |34.3                     |
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|Diameter (m)             |3.0                      |3.0                      |
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|Weight (t)               |211.1                    |210                      |
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|1st Stage                |                         |                         |
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|Height (m)               |22.3                     |22.3                     |
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|Weight (t)               |161.5                    |161.5                    |
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|Thrust (t)               |460                      |460                      |
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|2nd Stage                |                         |                         |
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|Height (m)               |6.8                      |6.8                      |
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|Thrust (t)               |77                       |77                       |
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|3rd Stage                |                         |                         |
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|Thrust (t)               |/                        |2.0                      |
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|Payload                  |                         |                         |
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|Height (m)               |7.4                      |5.2                      |
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|Weight (t)               |8.8                      |4.0                      |
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