Who Doesn't Like the Topol Missile System and Why?
The Arguments of Enemies of the Most Important Component of Russia's Strategic Nuclear Forces Sin with Nonprofessionalism

Moscow Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, 15-21 Mar 97 No 10, p 6
by Igor Pavlov

With the coming of the era of freedom of speech and pluralism of opinions, special public attention has been drawn by the sphere of defense organizational development, practically a closed topic previously. Problems of supporting the Army and Navy with necessary arms, and above all questions connected with further development of the country's strategic nuclear forces occupy not the last place in the discussion which has unfolded. One of the purposeful lines can be easily discerned; its content is to prove the "uselessness" (and even harmfulness) of the most important domestic strategic weapon system--the Topol mobile land-based intercontinental missile complex (PGRK).

To correctly understand the hidden motive for attacks on that missile complex, we must take into account, first of all, characteristic points in the history of its creation and, secondly, the professional ability of the faultfinding (not to be confused with constructively criticizing) opponents.

A Historical Digression

The idea of creating mobile land-based strategic missile complexes is old, as is the entire history of development of strategic missile weaponry. Back at the very end of the 1950's and in the early 1960's, the Americans were studying, from an exploratory design aspect, the possibility of accommodating the Minuteman missile on wheeled carrier vehicles and on railroad trains, and at that time they limited themselves to this (see below about the main reasons for such a decision).

The work of creating mobile land-based missile complexes began in our country during 1960-1961 (Yuzhnoye Design Bureau on the RT-20 intercontinental complex and ARSENAL Central Design Bureau on the RT-15 intermediate- range complex). Work was done for almost ten years, but was shut down in the late 1960's because of unsuccessful designs and, in this connection, nonfulfillment even of those requirements being levied in those years.

So the especially zealous revilers of the Topol complex who assert that the Americans got the idea of creating mobile land-based complexes in the early 1970's and it migrated from there to us are absolutely incorrect. It generally would have been possible not even to mention this had not the pseudoscientific garbage being spread by some candidates and doctors of sciences and retired colonels settled in the heads of some retired colonel- generals, who, moreover, were State Duma deputies and were taking an active part in campaigns to discredit quality domestic arms.

One characteristic point in the history of creation of the Topol mobile land-based missile complex is the circumstance that development of its predecessor, the Temp- 2S intercontinental complex, was begun (in 1966) and accomplished (in the early 1970's) in the USSR Ministry of the Defense Industry (MOP) system. That was the "seditious" initiative of Dmitriy Fedorovich Ustinov, who in the early 1960's became CPSU CC Secretary for Defense Questions. The intercontinental and intermediate-range complexes were considered the indisputable private domain of the Ministry of General Machinebuilding (MOM).

By the mid-1960's (more precisely, by 1967) the Americans had placed 1,000 single-warhead Minuteman missiles on alert status and already were prepared to develop precision missiles with multiple-warhead reentry vehicles. At this time the domestic ground-based nuclear missile potential (not to mention the submarine potential) looked more than modest and thus the prospect for reliable destruction of our weakly defended silo launches was becoming real. Flaws in developments of the aforementioned RT-20 and RT-15 missile complexes became obvious by this same time. In addition, the more than cool attitude of the Ministry of General Machinebuilding leadership toward solid-propellant missiles was apparent to the unaided eye (the main reason was that all mastodons--general designers who by their nature were "liquid-propellant"--had gone into the Ministry of General Machinebuilding system). Such a situation could not remain tolerable for long inasmuch as even then it was clear that a mobile complex acceptable for the troops could be created only based on solid-propellant technologies. The palm in this area was held by MIT, the Ministry of the Defense Industry Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering, headed by talented designer and organizer Aleksandr Davidovich Nadiradze. In 1965 the Institute turned over the first Soviet solid-propellant complex for operation with a two-stage guided ballistic missile, the Temp-S front missile complex with a range of 900 km. With consideration of external and internal reasons, the country's leadership made the decision to include the Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering in the creation of a mobile land-based intercontinental missile complex, charging it with developing the Temp-2S complex. Naturally such a turn of events was greeted unenthusiastically within the Ministry of General Machinebuilding. Departmental opposition to the Temp-2S complex appeared and then began to progress rapidly, supported as best they could and secretly by bureaucrats from the CPSU CC apparatus and Council of Ministers apparatus who had direct oversight over Ministry of General Machinebuilding activity. Fables were spread officially and unofficially about MIT's allegedly low technical level of development, about the inability of the Ministry of the Defense Industry to organize such work at all, and so on. For the sake of fairness it must be noted that the very concept of a mobile land-based missile complex essentially was not doubted at that time, but it was a question only of depriving the Ministry of the Defense Industry of the new subject matter that had appeared in that Ministry. Moreover, Ministry of General Machinebuilding research and design organizations which took part in creating the "Defense Industry" complexes made a significant contribution to success of the matter.

Things did not get by without intrigue also on the part of certain Missile Troops father-commanders. Some openly lobbied for Ministry of General Machinebuilding interests and others were frightened by the significant organizational troubles in connection with the appearance of the mobile land-based missile complex. In addition, this branch of the Armed Forces was built up rather comfortably compared with others, and there no longer was a wish to use outside facilities to urinate while standing alert duty. We have not had a Ministry of General Machinebuilding and a Ministry of the Defense Industry (in the previous form) for a long time now, but the metastases of opposition stretch from those far-off years to our time. Of course, it is dictated now by quite different considerations, and specifically by the struggle of once powerful organizations for survival.

In the mid-1970's, when the first regiments of the Temp-2S complex were preparing to be placed on alert status, powerful support for the home-bred departmental revilers unexpectedly came from across the ocean. The SALT II Treaty was being prepared and, having received appropriate information, the Americans set forth a demand to ban mobile land-based intercontinental missile complexes as one condition for concluding the Treaty. This is the next characteristic point in the history of creation of the Topol complex, and our General Staff must be given its due here. Its chiefs in those years--Matvey Vasilyevich Zakharov and then Viktor Georgiyevich Kulikov--gave proper attention to performance of the task of creating the mobile land-based missile complex, gave comprehensive support to work being done by MIT and did everything to keep this direction from dying. the MRV'ed Pioner intermediate-range missile complex was created (in 1976) in record short time based on the Temp-2S complex. Appropriate government decisions were prepared and made for a qualitative upgrading of the mobile complexes.

Meanwhile, in concluding the SALT II Treaty in 1979, the Americans succeeded in achieving: a) a ban on the Temp- 2S complex (several dozen manufactured missiles and launchers were taken to Plesetsk Range and quietly destroyed there); b) a provision in the Treaty allowing development of a new mobile missile only in the sense of modernizing the RT-2P silo-based single-warhead solid-propellant missile operational with us; c) a ban on equipment for reloading self-propelled launchers at field combat positions. Within the scope of the START I Treaty, in 1991 the Americans insisted on including a requirement in the Treaty about which for some reason it is not customary to recall: specifically that self-propelled launchers of combat subunits of land-based missile complexes must not leave the limits of zones whose area is equivalent to a circle with a radius of 10 km (!) in so-called peacetime (naturally it is not explained just what this [peacetime] is for strategic troops).

We will keep in mind these requirements of the Americans in order to return to them subsequently in the account.

The fuss over the START II Treaty retarded work on the Topol complex for a certain time, but no longer could stop it: the complex began to be placed in the order of battle in 1985 and officially became operational in 1988.

A Response to Enemies of Topol

In generalizing the negative statements with respect to the Topol (Topol-M) complex, it is advisable to dwell on the following ones:

a. The complex has poor concealment, in connection with which it is detected by space assets with high reliability and can be destroyed at the desired moment using conventional or nuclear weapons.

Counterargument. The level of survivability of the mobile land-based missile complex depends to a determining extent, as we know, on the following two factors: reliability of identification (and not simply detection) in alert duty areas, and the number of square kilometers of area (with specific properties) per launcher.

Poor reliability of identification of the mobile land- based missile complex (i.e., reliability based on which it is inadvisable to make a decision to deliver strikes against presumed points where launchers are located) has been confirmed in several stages:

by experimental studies using mockups of terrain and hardware of the complexes;

by many years of full-scale experiments using full- scale equipment and aviation and space reconnaissance assets (research topic "Mishen" [Target], fulfilled in the 1970's and 1980's);

in a combat situation (in 1991 during the war in Iraq the Americans had an accuracy of the reconnaissance field which seemingly left no chance for the mobile Scud complexes supplied to Iraq at one time by the Soviet Union.

As is well known, however, the Iraqis were launching the missiles right up to the very armistice, and arguments go on to this day about the number of complexes destroyed on the ground).

Creation of such a reconnaissance field density over the territory of Russia (if of course it is not reduced through efforts of well-wishers to the territory of the Moscow-Suzdal Principality) is a fantastic task. And here is the very time to recall requirements imposed by the Americans with respect to a ban on the Temp-2S complex, the ban on means of reloading launchers, and the ban on basing combat subunits (in so-called peacetime) in an area with a radius of more than 10 km--eloquent requirements, the meaning of which showed up well based on results of the Iraqi campaign!

Our faultfinders' assertions about limited capabilities for basing the mobile land-based missile complexes and for their road movement are unfounded. At one time the USSR Ministry of Defense together with industrial organizations analyzed and selected position areas on the country's territory capable of holding hundreds of mobile launchers, should it be required, without detriment to national economic activity. The capability for movement of the hardware of a complex over roads of various categories and off the roads has been confirmed by performance tests extending for many thousands of kilometers. The service life of the multiple-axle chassis supports the necessary frequency of position change during the time set for the operating life of the complex. The launcher's independence has been taken to such a level where it is capable of performing a combat mission independently, and not as part of that "herd" of vehicles which was required 30 years ago. Based on decisions of the military-industrial complex, work was done simultaneously to work out the methods and means of increasing the nonidentifiableness of complexes at field positions (dummy activity, camouflage nets) and to ensure necessary levels of resistance of systems and hardware to the damage-producing elements of a nuclear burst.

Finally, Chief Designer documentation provides for quite specific regimes of operation of the complex ensuring its concealment. A violation of documentation requirements (for example, constantly being in bases in light shelters) already is in the area of the Law of Criminal Procedure. So reliable destruction of Topol complexes is possible only on condition of the entire expanse of position areas being covered with a specific overpressure. But this requires detonating such a number of nuclear weapons that the act becomes senseless for the attacking side--the consequences of radioactive contamination will be global.

b. Mobile land-based complexes are highly vulnerable to actions of saboteurs.

Counterargument. A single act of sabotage is absurd in its essence from a state standpoint (that of a potential enemy). The following is interesting with respect to large- scale sabotage (on a national scale) coordinated in time: sabotage teams (obviously, disguised as mushroom hunters, surveyors, hunters, foresters and so on) constantly must seek and accompany the launchers, and on bicycles or motorized sledges as a minimum, otherwise you won't keep up. They naturally have to live under field conditions--in the rain, intense heat, severe cold. Of course, this theme could be continued in the presence of a situation of total muddle in our counterintelligence structures, but to no avail. The potential enemy isn't up to organizing such an operation, which that very same experience of the war with Iraq again showed clearly.

c. Mobile land-based missile complexes are predisposed to accidents and so carry a threat to the environment, especially in connection with the presence of solid propellant in missile engines. Counterargument. No more than a dozen overturns of launchers and transporter-reloader units with missiles occurred over many years of operating the Pioner and Topol complexes, and all instances were in the first years of mastering the new equipment. No explosion of solid- propellant charges occurred in a single one of the accidents. Moreover, all missiles (or their engines) were used successfully for experimental purposes after a preventive maintenance inspection.

In addition, those familiar with properties of fuel components of liquid-propellant combat missiles from more than hearsay do not have to be told what will happen if, for example, a mobile launcher with such a missile falls from a bridge into a river or even a stream.

d. Mobile land-based missile complexes have the highest cost of deployment and upkeep.

Counterargument. Comparative assessments of cost indicators of missile complexes with different forms of basing, made regularly within the scope of integrated research (for example, Vekha, Vekha-2, Perspektiva-2010), indicate that this is not so. It was research that showed that the cost of a round as part of a grouping of complexes of a specific type and the cost of this grouping's performance of a conditional combat mission in a retaliatory strike are the most objective indicators in comparing the tactical-technical-economic effectiveness of different strategic missile complexes. This approach means in particular that the cost of the infrastructure which services combat missile complexes (and only them) also must pertain to the cost of a round, i.e., for example, if there needs to be a system of air defense of basing facilities to ensure survivability of missile-armed naval ships in those facilities, then its cost must be included in the cost of a round as part of the grouping of naval nuclear forces, exactly as this indicator also must include the cost of tunnels [shtolnya] on shore filled with a so-called second salvo (even if everyone understands that a second salvo is a chimera).

Sometimes one may run across speculative assessments where expenditures as part of the grouping [gruppirovka] pertain to one warhead. The incorrectness is that the grouping [kuchnost] of warheads (of each one separately) may differ greatly for different missiles. And if particular specific characteristics are used, then in a number of cases it would be correct to relate expenditures to the unit area destroyed (with a certain overpressure) in a retaliatory strike. With respect to the Topol type of mobile land-based missile complex, this incorrectness also lies in the fact, for example, that in the opinion of some specialists the Topol-M missile can be fitted with several warheads if necessary. One also should not forget that a new intermediate-range complex with a wide gamut of combat outfitting can be created quickly (again if necessary) based on the Topol (Topol-M) complex with relatively small expenditures.

e. Topol missile complexes have lower effectiveness not only compared with naval, but also with silo complexes.

Counterargument. That this is not so generally already follows from what was said earlier. We will note only the following.

With respect to silo complexes, the assertion of their higher effectiveness is most likely the product of hallucinations or of some kind of special kind of thinking, since it is enough to constantly remember the television broadcast from aboard an American precision cruise missile flying down the ventilation shaft of a superhardened underground shelter in Baghdad. Everything is said with this graphic aid, and no theoretical logomachy is necessary.

With respect to domestic sea-based complexes, it must be borne in mind that despite many flaws of their basing system, they are a necessary component of the grouping of strategic nuclear forces as a whole. In 1970 the U.S. Congress held thorough hearings on the subject of why America needs a strategic nuclear triad. As a result it was admitted that this is necessary inasmuch as if one has only one component, the enemy will get an opportunity to concentrate his resources on countering it. Probably for the foreseeable future it is possible to agree with the conclusion of the Americans (at the very least with respect to a diad--ground and naval components of the strategic nuclear forces), who even now are in no hurry to reject a triad.

The U.S. position with respect to its own land-based mobile complexes is explained simply. First of all, America is foreordained by geography itself (natural conditions above all) to have a strategic sea-based missile system. At the very least they do not have to boast that they are able to break open the ice in order to fire (an activity, by the way, accompanied by very strong acoustic noise). Secondly, their powerful naval component essentially is not threatened by anything now and for long years ahead. New capital expenditures simply would be foolish in that situation. And thirdly and finally, there is a reason about which they prefer not to speak loudly. Studies of 20 and 30 years ago showed that the deployment of mobile land-based complexes on U.S. territory is fraught with considerable organizational/legal and financial problems dictated by the large-scale privately owned land and transportation infrastructure.

We will encounter these problems immediately as soon as we transfer land and roads to the hands of private capital on a mass basis.

In conclusion, attention must be directed to two points.

First. The extremely serious discussion (wherever it occurs) of questions of future organizational development of the country's strategic nuclear forces should not be carried out without the involvement of professionals from organizations that developed the missile complexes.

Second. It would be exceptionally advisable to delve more attentively into restrictions imposed by the Americans with respect to our land-based mobile missile complexes and weigh once again the need to retain these restrictions, bearing in mind that the strategic nuclear forces will remain the only persuasive means of ensuring the country's military security for a long time yet.