Now that the first regiment of silo-based RS-24 Yars missiles in Kozelsk had been completed, Rosspetsstroy began conversion of ten more silos for Yars missiles. According to Rosspetsstroy, two out of ten silos will be ready for service by the end of 2016.

In 2015 the Strategic Rocket Forces conducted eight launches of ICBMs. In his interview to the press on the Rocket Forces anniversary, the commander of the service, Sergey Karakaev, said that one launch was part of a strategic exercise [Topol from Plesetsk on 30 October 2015], two missiles were launched to test new payloads [these are Topol launches from Kapustin Yar in August 2015 and November 2015], three were new missile development launches [Project 4202 test in February 2015, RS-26 launch in March 2015, and the silo-based RS-24 Yars test in October 2015], and one space launch [Dnepr in March 2015]. This is the total of seven, but there was one more launch after the interview - Topol from Kapustin Yar on 24 December 2015 - so the final total is eight.

It is worth keeping in mind that the plan for 2015 was 14 launches. Nine were supposed to be "experimental and development" - there are five or six in this category. One "serial production" is either the silo RS-24 launch (which might be the sixths "development") or the Topol launch in October. Four "space launches and life extension" became just one Dnepr. Whatever the breakdown by categories, the planned number has not been reached. This is nothing new - there were only 10 launches of the planned 16 in 2014 (Slon.ru has a nice chart that compares plans and actual launches since 2008).

In 2016, the Rocket Forces plan to conduct 16 ICBM launches. According to Karakayev's interview, two of them will be life extension launches and 14 - development.

On December 24, 2015 at 20:55 MSK (17:55 UTC) the Strategic Rocket Forces carried out a successful launch of a Topol/SS-25 missile from the Kapustin Yar test site. According to the official statement, the purpose of the launch was "to test new combat payload for future ICBMs." The warhead was said to have successfully reached its target at the Sary-Shagan test range.

This is the third Topol launch from Kapustin Yar in 2015. The previous ones took place in August 2015 and November 2015.

The seventh Borey class submarine (Project 955A) was laid down at Sevmash on 18 December 2015. The submarine was named "Imperator Alexander III".

The sub will join three other ships under construction - Knyaz Vladimir, Knyaz Oleg, and Generalissimus Suvorov laid down in July 2012, July 2014, and December 2014 respectively. Three Project 955 submarines are already in service.

The eighth Borey-class submarine is expected to be laid down on 21 December 2016.

In his traditional December interview to the press, commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, Sergey Karakayev, said that by the end of the year his service will complete deployment of five new Yars regiments - in missile divisions in Kozelsk, Nizhniy Tagil, and Novosibirsk.

The plan for 2015 was to deploy about 20 new ICBMs. The Kozelsk regiment, which began combat duty in December, received six silo-based missiles. This seems to suggest that the other four regiments did not receive a full complement of missiles.

Karakayev said that in 2016 the Rocket Forces will continue to deploy RS-24 Yars in five regiments - in Kozelsk, Novosibirsk, Tagil - and will begin deployment in Irkutsk and Yoshkar-Ola. Which is interesting, since Irkutsk was expected to receive RS-26. The total number of new missiles, according to Karakayev, is about 20.

UPDATE: At this point I assume that the Novosibirsk division received 12 new missiles, bringing its total to 21, and Nizhniy Tagil received six, so the total there is now 24.

On December 13, 2015 at 03:19 MSK (00:19 UTC) Air and Space Forces successfully launched a Proton-M rocket from the launch complex No. 81 of the Baykonur launch site. The rocket and the Briz-M upper stage successfully delivered the satellite, later designated Cosmos-2513, to a geosynchronous transfer orbit. Cosmos-2513 is reported to be a military relay satellite of the Garpun type.

The satellite was given an international designation 2015-075A and NORAD number 41121. It was deployed on a geosynchronous orbit at 80 degrees East.

This is the second satellite of the Garpun type. The first, Cosmos-2473, was launched in September 2011.

On December 12, 2015 the Verkhoturie submarine of the Project 667BDRM/Delta IV class successfully launched an R-29RM Sineva missile from Barents Sea. All warheads are said to have successfully reached their targets at the Kura test site in Kamchatka.

Previous R-29RM launch took place in October 2015, from the Bryansk submarine. For Verkhoturie it's the first launch since December 2012, when it returned from an overhaul that included installation of the Sineva version of the R-29RM missile.

According to a statement of the commander of the Vladimir missile army, the Kozelsk regiment of silo-based RS-24 Yars missiles began combat duty.

This probably means that the deployment of all ten missiles in Kozelsk is finally completed. The first two missiles were installed in silos in August 2014. The total of four missiles had been deployed at the end of 2014, and six were to be installed in silos in 2015.

On December 5, 2015 at 17:09 MSK (14:09 UTC) the Air and Space Forces conducted a successful launch of a Soyuz-2.1v space launcher from the launch pad No. 4 of the launch site No. 43 at Plesetsk. The launcher, equipped with the Volga boost stage, carried two satellites that were declared as military and that were designated Cosmos-2511 and Cosmos-2512.

The main payload, presumably Cosmos-2511, was a new ocean monitoring satellite, Kanopus-ST. It was described as being capable of detect underwater submarines as well as collecting data for civilian remote-sensing and meteorological research. However, the spacecraft failed to separate from the boost stage and is expected to re-enter the atmosphere in the next few days.

The second satellite, presumably Cosmos-2512, is a KYuA-1 radar calibration sphere. It was deployed successfully.

It was the second launch of the Souyz-2.1v modification of the Soyuz launcher. The first launch took place on December 28, 2013.

On December 1, 2015 the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on "Russian Arms Control Cheating: Violation of the INF Treaty and the Administration's Responses One Year Later". Rose Gottemoeller and Brian McKeon were invited to testify, just as they were a year ago. There was nothing particularly new there, at least not in the open session, but a few details are worth mentioning.

First, the administration line on discovering the suspect cruise missile has finally taken its final shape - although it is still believed that the tests began in 2008, "it was the end of 2011 when [the United States] had indications that this missile was a missile of concern" (see the exchange after 1:13:52 in the video). Before that, the line goes, the United States didn't even had suspicions about the violation.

As I understand what Rose Gottemoeller said, before that time the missile was tested in treaty-compliant manner, either from a fixed launcher or from sea (or maybe from an aircraft). Which definitely makes sense if this is essentially the same missile. (In all likelihood, this is the missile that was used against Syria in October - Kalibr-NK.) Then, in 2011, Russia probably tested it from a mobile launcher, which immediately made it non-compliant with the treaty.

Rose was very specific about my SLCM/technicality theory being wrong - "We've made it very clear [to the Russians] that this is not a technicality or a one-off event, or a case of mistaken identity. Again, [there was] a notion of this being a sea-launched cruise missile..." (it's at 15:58).

I am not sure I fully buy these arguments, though. On the end of 2011 claim, it is clear that the administration is under considerable pressure from Congress - there is no way they could admit that anyone had an inkling of a violation in 2010, at the time the New START was being ratified. My guess is that someone somewhere in the U.S. intelligence community may have had suspicions, although they probably had not been reported up the chain of command.

On the technicality theory, it is, of course, possible that I got it wrong and there is indeed a dedicated launcher that has been used to launch the new missile. But at the same time, we don't really expect the administration to say it was indeed a technicality - definitely not today, when the issue got that much attention. Even if there is no dedicated launcher, the administration will definitely stick to its line, especially since strictly speaking it is correct - as far as the INF Treaty is concerned, it is not an SLCM. On a larger point, however, judging from what was said yesterday, I am probably correct - the missile in question appears to be virtually identical to a SLCM (Kalibr-NK?), but it's just launched from a mobile launcher.