The SMF's Special Mission

Col-Gen V.N. Yakovlev:Chief on Priority Role of Missile Forces in State Security Moscow Armeyskiy Sbornik, May 1997 No 5, pp 36-41
by Colonel-General Vladimir Nikolayevich Yakovlev, chief of the Strategic Missile Forces Main Staff

Vladimir Nikolayevich Yakovlev was born on August 17, 1954 in the city of Kalinin (now Tver). He entered Kharkov Higher Command-Engineering School imeni Marshal of the Soviet Union N.I. Krylov in 1971 from which he graduated with a gold medal in 1976. He has passed through all of the levels of a military career in the SMF [Strategic Missile Forces] system: team engineer in 1976-1977, team senior engineer -- in 1977-1978, launch team commander -- in 1978-1981 and, missile regiment chief of staff -- in 1981-1983. He graduated from the command department of the Military Academy imeni F.E. Dzerzhinskiy with a gold medal in 1985. He was a missile regiment commander -- in 1985-1989, a missile division deputy commander -- in 1989-1991, a missile division commander -- in 1991-1993 and, a missile army chief of staff -- in 1993-1994. He was a missile army commander from 1994 through January 1997. On January 2, 1997, in accordance with an RF Presidential decree, he assumed the position of chief of the SMF Main Staff. He has been decorated with the orders of the Red Star, "For Distinguished Combat Service", and with many medals. He is married and has two daughters.

The historic Potsdam Conference, at which the leaders of the three great victorious countries -- the USSR, the United States, and Great Britain --assembled in order to consolidate the results of the Great Victory in coordinated decisions and to lay the foundation of Europe's postwar structure, opened in the great hall of Tsetsilnenhof [transliterated] Palace on July 17, 1945. But the first test of the atomic bomb took place in the United States of America on July 16, the day before that. Of course, that combination of circumstances was not by chance...

U.S. President Truman wanted to go to the negotiations on the world's postwar system, already with the "atomic bomb under his belt" in a calculation to strengthen the American position with regard to the Soviet Union. That is precisely why he twice insisted on delaying the time period of the conference and arrived there only on the eve of the atomic bomb test.

In August 1945, a new weapon of mass destruction -- the atomic bomb -- entered the arsenal of the U.S. Army. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the first to feel the lethal power of this diabolical weapon. And already in June 1946, the U.S. Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff prepared an "experimental" plan for a nuclear war against the USSR under the code name "Pincher" [transliterated]. Its compilers proceeded from the fact that a war will break out in 1946 or 1947. The threat was also intensified by the fact that, having deployed its air and naval bases on foreign territory near the borders of the Soviet Union, the United States began to possess a substantial military-strategic superiority because the majority of the USSR's military industrial facilities were located in the area of operations of American forward based nuclear forces.

The Soviet government was compelled to adopt decisive and urgent measures for the creation of atomic and missile weapons in order to eliminate the atomic monopoly and the geographic inaccessibility of U.S. targets and to neutralize U.S. military-strategic superiority. That was a question of life or death. The threat of a new, more horrible war once again hung over the country only one year after the Great Patriotic War.

On May 13, 1946, the Soviet government adopted a decree that stipulated the creation of an entire network of scientific-research institutes and design bureaus in various sectors of industry that were oriented on accelerating the conduct of work on the development of long-range missile weapons. One can consider that decree to be the reference point in the history of the modern Strategic Missile Forces -- the troops that have never participated in combat operations but who have preserved the peace that was won in far away 1945 for decades through the very fact of their existence.

The development and successful testing of a nuclear warhead in 1949 and the first ballistic missile in the world in 1957 became the outstanding scientific-theoretical achievements of native scientists and designers. These achievements became the result of the intense labor of the collectives headed by I.V. Kurchatov, Yu.B. Khariton, S.P. Korolev, and other founders of native nuclear missile weapons.

The first period in the history of the SMF, that preceded 1959, plays a very important role in the creation and development of the SMF. Nuclear missile weapon developers and veteran missileers created the foundation for a new branch of the Armed Forces through their selfless labor under conditions of the postwar destruction at the end of the 1940's and in the 1950's.

On December 17,1959, the USSR Council of Ministers issued the Decree "On Founding the Position of Commander-in- Chief of the Missile Forces in the Composition of the Armed Forces of the USSR". That date essentially is the day of the formation of the Strategic Missile Forces as an independent branch of the Armed Forces and, since 1955, has been celebrated annually as the professional holiday of the strategic missileers -- Strategic Missile Forces Day. On December 31, 1959, USSR Minister of Defense Marshal of the Soviet Union R.Ya. Malinovskiy signed an order which defined the list of the units and institutions that was shifting to the subordination of the Missile Forces commander-in-chief. The first missile formations of the Supreme High Command reserve, the ranges, arsenals, scientific-research institutions, the headquarters of missile units and other command and control organs became the basis for the formation of the Strategic Missile Forces and were subordinate to Chief Marshal of Artillery M.I. Nedelin, the USSR deputy minister of defense for special weapons and missile equipment, who was appointed the first commander-in-chief of the SMF. An active participant of the Great Patriotic War, M.I. Nedelin was directly involved with improving the artillery of the Soviet Armed Forces and actively participated in the development of nuclear missile weapons over the course of 14 postwar years.

The creation of the SMF was ensured through the accelerated construction of unique launch sites for intercontinental ballistic missiles [ICBM] and intermediate range missiles [IRBM] on the country's vast territories, by the rapid formation and infrastructure development of several dozen missile formations, and by the stimulation of the development and mass production of missile systems with which to equip the troops. A network of military-educational institutions for training officer-missileers was created in the shortest period of time, the training of personnel of units and subunits was organized at a high professional level, and combat alert duty and centralized troop and strategic weapon combat command and control systems were developed and introduced.

The second period of the development of the SMF, which lasted approximately until 1965, began from December 1959. It may be defined as the period of the formation of the new branch of the Armed Forces that took place under the leadership of the renowned military leaders of the Great Patriotic War who headed the SMF in those years: Chief Marshal of Artillery M.I. Nedelin, and Marshals of the Soviet Union K.S. Moskalenko, S.S. Biryuzov, and N.I. Krylov.

The first-generation missileers manifested courage and high responsibility while mastering new missile systems, the construction of position areas, and the placement of missile units and formations on combat alert. Special difficulties became the lot of the trailblazer-missileers in the country's Polar Region and semi-arid south, in the taiga tracts of land and steppes of the Urals, Siberia, Transbaykal, and the Far East.

As a result of intense labor, a formation of intercontinental ballistic missiles and intermediate range missiles with R-7, R-12, R-14, R-16, and R-9 group land- based silo launchers, developed at the design bureaus of S.P. Korolev and M.K. Yangel, had been created and placed on combat alert already by 1965.

The ICBM and IRBM formations and units that were armed with first-generation missile systems could carry out the strategic missions of the Supreme Main Command in remote geographic areas and in any theaters of military operations which signified the end to the invulnerability of the transoceanic and other territories from which emanated the threat of the unpunished employment of nuclear weapons against our country.

Just two and one half years after their formation, in 1962, the accomplishment of the complex and responsible mission to prevent an American invasion of Cuba became the SMF's lot. As is known, the SMF made a substantial contribution to the peaceful resolution of the Caribbean Crisis. During the course of the operation which received the designation "Anadyr", the Soviet Union surreptitiously delivered R-12 and R-14 intermediate range missiles to Cuba. A missile formation consisting of 42 missiles was brought up to combat readiness under the difficult conditions of a blockade of the island, the direct threat of the conduct of an air strike, and in the unaccustomed tropical conditions. Lieutenant-Generals P.B. Dankevich and P.V. Akindinov, and Major-General L.S. Garbuz worked as part of the group of forces in Cuba from the SMF. Major-General I.D. Statsenko exercised direct command of the SMF formation in Cuba. The real threat to the territory of the United States that emanated from this missile formation largely facilitated a political resolution of the Caribbean Crisis. This was the first victory that was attained through peaceful means. In the first half of the 1960's, the United States completed a new surge in the buildup of its strategic offensive forces through the large-scale deployment of Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, while bringing their number up to 350. At that time, the Soviet Union lagged behind the United States in the number of ICBMs by more than a factor of five. As a result, during the course of the third period of its development -- from 1965 through 1973 -- the Missile Forces accomplished the grandiose mission on the deployment of the second-generation of missile systems with single launches -- the RS-10 and the R-36. The new generation of missiles, that were developed at the design bureaus of V.N. Chelomey and M.K. Yangel, was distinguished by high combat readiness, target hitting accuracy, survivability, and by the reduction of the number of personnel and that it practically did not lag behind based upon the Minuteman missiles' main tactical-technical specifications.

The formation and infrastructure development in short periods of time of new missile formations in uninhabited areas of the Urals, Siberia, and Kazakhstan, completion of arming, and later the complete rearming of ICBM divisions that were placed on combat alert in the first half of the 1960's were required for the deployment of a major formation of OS [operational formation] missile systems. That major governmental program was accomplished by the Missile Forces under the leadership of Marshal of the Soviet Union N.I. Krylov.

Many defense sectors of industry, military and civilian construction and erection organizations were enlisted for the development of second-generation missile systems and the construction of single launch positions and other important facilities. A powerful ICBM formation, that did not lag behind U.S. ICBMs in quantitative composition and combat specifications, was deployed at the cost of the enormous effort of the entire country at the beginning of the 1970's. The SMF was transformed into the main component of the strategic nuclear forces. For the first time in many years, an approximate military-strategic parity was attained between the USSR and United States. By 1973, the USSR had 1,745 strategic nuclear weapons platforms as compared to 2,260 for the United States.

However, from the beginning of the 1970's the United States undertook a new spiral of the strategic weapons arms race that was directed at restoring the previous superiority over the Soviet Union. The development and widespread deployment in America of missiles with multiple independent reentry vehicles posed the greatest threat for achieving a strategic forces balance, as a result of which the total number of ballistic missile warheads in the United States was increased by more than a factor of three from 1970 through 1975.

In the period 1973-1985, our side countered the buildup of the combat capabilities of U.S. offensive arms with the development and deployment of new third-generation missile systems -- the RS-16, RS-18 and RS-20 that were developed at the design bureaus of V.N. Chelomey and V.F. Utkin. The following were included in the systems of this generation along with the employment of multiple independent reentry vehicles and new technical solutions: higher combat readiness and accuracy, the employment of an autonomous guidance system with an onboard computer, the installation of missiles and a combat missile system command and control facility in hardened facilities, the capability for remote retargeting before launch, and the availability of more effective systems for overcoming ABM [antiballistic missile] systems. The RSD-10 intermediate range mobile missile system, that was developed at the design bureau of A.D. Nadirazde and deployed at the end of the 1970's -- beginning of the 1980's, is part of that same generation of missile systems.

The acceptance into the inventory, deployment, and placement on combat alert of third-generation missile systems permitted the attainment of approximate equality based upon the number of warheads on the ICBMs of the USSR and the United States which to a significant extent facilitated the preservation of the military-strategic parity between the world's leading nuclear powers. A significant role in the successful accomplishment of these missions belonged to Chief Marshal of Artillery V.F. Tolubko who was SMF first deputy commander-in-chief from 1960 through 1968 and SMF commander-in-chief from 1972 through 1985.

Despite the relative equality of the sides' enormous nuclear missile potentials with their exceptionally high combat readiness, the beginning of the 1980's was marked by the next attempt by the United States to establish its superiority in nuclear potential. This time the U.S. counted on the deployment of the new MX missile that exceeds the Minuteman III missile in combat effectiveness by a factor of six and also the Trident II sea-based missile that exceeds the Poseidon III in destruction capability of small targets by a factor of 15. Furthermore, the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative, that envisioned the placement of nuclear weapons and weapons based upon new physical principles into orbit, became the strongest destabilizing factor.

And once again our country, and its strategic nuclear forces, specifically the SMF, were compelled to take retaliatory measures that were directed at strengthening the defense capability and preventing U.S. military-strategic superiority. Since 1985, the mission of preserving the parity that was achieved between the USSR and the United States has been accomplished for our part by the introduction of fourth-generation mobile and fixed missile systems into the SMF's combat strength. These fourth- generation missiles do not lag behind foreign nuclear missile weapons in combat effectiveness and even exceed them in a number of indicators. The corresponding measures were taken on sea- and air-based nuclear weapons.

The introduction of fourth-generation missile systems into the Missile Forces was associated with the accomplishment of a series of nontraditional missions such as the development of the principles of the combat employment of mobile rail and ground-based combat missile systems, the infrastructure development of combat patrol routes, and the organization of combat command and control while on the move and at field launch sites. These missions were successfully accomplished by the SMF that was headed by General of the Army Yu.P. Maksimov in 1985-1992. General of the Army Maksimov was a Hero of the Soviet Union and a participant of the Great Patriotic War. That was a difficult period in the history of the SMF. It was distinguished by saturation with important, frequently exceedingly complicated political events, radical changes in the views of the military-political leadership of the majority of states on the conduct of international affairs, the conclusion of treaties that were directed at reducing the level of military confrontation of the USSR and the United States, the Warsaw Pact and NATO. In those years, the USSR repeatedly set forth a series of new initiatives that were directed at the limitation and reduction of arms. In 1987, the Treaty on the Total Elimination of Medium Range and Lesser Range Missiles was signed between the USSR and the United States and, later -- the Treaties on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Weapons: in July 1991 -- START I between the USSR and the United States and, in January 1993 -- START II between Russia and the United States.

Radical changes of the military-political situation at the beginning of the 1990's, the disintegration of the USSR, the formation of Russia as an independent state and the creation of its Armed Forces required the precise definition of the role and place of the strategic nuclear forces in guaranteeing the Russian Federation's security. This role has substantially increased under conditions of the economic difficulties and the weakening of the general purpose forces. Today the main role in maintaining the peace and deterrence from unleashing both a nuclear and also a conventional war against Russia is assigned to nuclear weapons. Russia tasks its nuclear forces first of all with deterring functions, that is, they constitute not a weapon for conducting war but a military-political weapon that is intended to prevent war.

However, not only the presence of nuclear weapons but also their actual high combat capabilities deters. As a result, the doctrine's provisions that define the direction of the further development of the Russian Armed Forces have defined the deterrence mission "of the entire complex of strategic weapons at the level that guarantees the security of the Russian Federation and its allies, strategic stability, deterrence of world nuclear and conventional wars, and also nuclear security" as a priority. And the selection of that priority is very well substantiated. It permits us to guarantee Russia's military security with comparatively low financial expenditures.

The Strategic Missile Forces objectively, due to Russia's geostrategic position and the combat capabilities of the nuclear missile weapons which they possess, are the basis of the strategic nuclear forces and therefore, naturally, the realization of the function of deterrence and the prevention of war by the strategic nuclear forces largely depends on them. Having in their composition approximately 60 percent of the platforms and warheads of the strategic nuclear forces, the SMF guarantee today, as previously, the accomplishment of 90-95 percent of the combat missions assigned to the RF's strategic nuclear forces in a retaliatory-counter [otvetno-vstrechnyy] strike and more than half of the missions in a retaliatory strike. Furthermore, the SMF's missile systems have the highest combat readiness, stealthiness of preparation for their combat employment, are all-weather, and are least of all subject to impact by the enemy during the course of a war using conventional weapons. We must also take into account the fact that the SMF is not only the most effective component of the Russian nuclear "triad" but also the cheapest. The SMF's authorized strength is a total of nine percent of the strength of Russia's Armed Forces and annual expenditures for their maintenance and development do not exceed 6-8 percent of the defense budget.

The missile systems that are in the SMF inventory at the present time are divided into fixed (silo-based) and mobile based upon types of basing.

The missile systems of the heavy and light classes with liquid and solid-fueled missiles compose the foundation of the fixed basing formation. These missiles are equipped with multiple independent nuclear warheads with individual guidance to the target of each warhead. All of the fixed basing systems have high hardened protection, the highest missile launch readiness and, because of that, make the primary contribution to the accomplishment of the missions of a retaliatory-counter strike.

Topol ground-based mobile missile systems with solid- fuel missiles and single warheads and rail missile systems with solid-fuel missiles that are equipped with multiple independent reentry vehicles are in the composition of the mobile basing formation. The rail and ground-based mobile missile systems do not have equivalents in the world. Their main specific feature and advantage is the fact that they, having the characteristic to operationally change their location, do not permit the enemy to reliably determine their positions and carry out an aimed strike. In the process, the launch of missiles of mobile missile systems is possible practically from any point of the combat patrol route. Thanks to these characteristics, the missile systems of this type have high survivability and make the main contribution to the accomplishment of the missions of a retaliatory strike.

The directions of the further development and qualitative improvement of the SMF will largely be determined by the restrictions of the Treaties in the sphere of the limitation of strategic offensive weapons and also by Russia's economic capabilities. A specific feature of today's state of the SMF formation is the fact that the missile systems that are on combat alert duty "are becoming obsolete", a significant portion of them have exhausted their warranty period. As a result, the maximum extension of the time periods of operation of existing missile systems and the introduction of the Topol-M modernized missile system into the combat complement will be a priority direction of the structural development of the SMF in the near future.

The Topol-M missile system -- this is the first purely Russian-made missile system that, thanks to the employment of new technical solutions for its tactical-technical specifications, will significantly exceed the systems that are in operation. The Topol-M missile system is being developed as the only Strategic Missile Forces system and in the future must replace the entire product list of systems that are in the inventory at the present time. With that goal, two types of basing systems have been envisioned -- fixed silo-based and mobile ground-based.

Certainly, like all of the country's Armed Forces, today the SMF has quite a few problems that are associated with inadequate and irregular financing and logistics supply of the troops and with their manning.

And yet, despite the difficulties of the period that it is going through, the Strategic Missile Forces have managed to preserve strict centralized combat command and control of the troops and weapons and a strict system of combat alert duty and operation of missile weapons at the cost of enormous efforts. All of this permits us to exercise continuous and reliable control of the technical state of nuclear missile weapons, communications and combat command and control equipment and systems, and to ensure the guaranteed protection and defense of the facilities of position areas and, on the whole, to be prepared for immediate accomplishment of the assigned combat missions. In conclusion, I think it is necessary to stress that the entire history of the creation, formation, and development of the SMF has been directed toward the accomplishment of one main mission -- to guarantee the security of our state. The Missile Forces have adequate combat, scientific, and production potential for its effective accomplishment both today and in the future.