On October 30, 2014 at 04:42:52 MSK (01:42:52 UTC) the Space Forces successfully launched a Soyuz-2.1a launcher from the launch pad No. 4 of the launch complex No. 43 of the Plesetsk space launch site. The launcher, equipped with a Fregat booster stage, delivered into orbit a new military communication satellite of the Meridian type.

The satellite has not yet received a NORAD number. Its international designation is 2014-069A. The satellite is known as Meridian 7. Previous Meridian launch took place in November 2012.

On October 29, 2014 the lead submarine of the Project 955 Borey class, Yuri Dolgorukiy, successfully launched a Bulava missile. The submarine was deployed in the Barents Sea; the warheads were reported to reach their targets at the Kura test site in Kamchatka. According to the Russian ministry of defense, the submarine has the full complement of 16 missiles on board at the time of the test.

The submarine, which was formally accepted for service in December 2012, joined the Northern Fleet in December 2013. However, this is the first time it has the full complement of missiles on board - the Bulava program was set back by the failure during a test launch in September 2013. The launches were resumed in September 2014 - a missile was launched from Vladimir Monomakh.

The U.S. State Department released aggregate New START numbers from the 1 September 2014 data exchange. Compared to March 2014, Russia substantially increased the number of deployed launchers - from 498 to 528 - and deployed warheads - from 1512 to 1643. The total number of launchers increased as well, but not nearly as dramatically - from 905 in March 2014 to 911 in September 2014.

Where did the new 30 deployed launchers and 131 warheads come from? Most likely from the two Project 955 Borey submarine. Two submarines can carry 32 Bulava missiles with as many as 6 warheads each - this alone could have added 192 warheads. However, it is unlikely that both submarines had a full missile load on September 1, 2014 - Vladimir Monomakh conducted a test launch on September 10, 2014 and it appears that it was the only missile on board. But Yuri Dolgorukiy appears to be fully loaded (or nearly so) - it is expected to conduct a test launch in October 2014 with a full complement of missiles on board. The bottom line is that SLBMs can account for 17 launchers and up to 102 warheads (we don't know if Bulava in fact carries six warheads as was declared in START).

Then there are ICBMs. Two silo-based RS-24 Yars missiles were installed in silos in Kozelsk in August 2014 - that would add two missiles and eight warheads. In September 2014 the Rocket Forces announced that in addition to the regiment in Kozelsk, two mobile RS-24 Yars regiments will be deployed by the end of 2014 - in Nizhniy Tagil and Novosibirsk. That would be as many as 18 missiles with 72 warheads. Some (and definitely not all) of these missiles may have been already New START accountable in September. Withdrawal of single-warhead SS-25 Topol ICBMs would account for the moderate increase in the number of total launchers.

It would take a closer look at the numbers to see if all this adds up, but it appears that there is no mystery in Russia's New START numbers.

U.S. numbers in September 2014 are 794 deployed launchers (778 in March 2014), 1642 (1585) deployed warheads, and 912 (952) total launchers.

According to a source at the Russian Navy, quoted by the Russian media, two Project 955 submarines, Alexander Nevskiy and Vladimir Monomakh, will carry out test launches of Bulava missiles in the fall of 2015. By that time the submarines are expected to arrive at their permanent Pacific Fleet base in Vilyuchinsk. According to the plan, each test will be a single launch.

NPO Mashinostroyeniya (NPOMash), as the Chelomey Design Bureau is known, reported that in September 2014 it completed tests of a new cruise missile - "In September we completed state acceptance trials of a new cruise missile and two missile systems, ground-based and sea-based, that include the missile."

This seems to be something different from the R-500 Iskander and the entire 3M14 and 3M54 line of cruise missiles that are being developed by the Novator Design Bureau (although I probably should not rule out a joint project of some sort). I'm wondering if the NPOMash cruise missile is the culprit in the INF Treaty compliance controversy. UPDATE: No, apparently it is not - see the discussion in comments.

Also, NPOMash confirmed that it is carrying out flight tests of a new system for the Strategic Rocket Forces. This is clearly the Project 4202.

What a difference a year makes - since the last update in August 2013, we now can see three more early-warning radars - in Yeniseysk (Voronezh-DM), near Barnaul (Voronezh-DM), and near Orsk (Voronezh-M).


The Yeniseysk radar covers very much the same sector that was supposed to be covered by the old Daryal radar that was built nearby in the 1980s. The radars in Barnaul and Orsk look almost directly South.

Here is an updated Google Earth file that shows locations of the new (and old) radars and the sectors they cover.

Construction of the early-warning radar in Orsk is very much underway. Here is the radar - at 51.273346, 58.959030. It is looking almost directly South (170 degrees).

Google Earth tells us that there was nothing there just a year go - the image from 26 June 2013 shows only some marks where the new radar will be built.

UPDATE: Here are some photos of the Orsk radar (h/t AS).

Google Earth now has images of the new Voronezh-DM radar in Barnaul (thank you, Bernd). As earlier reports indicated, the radar site is located not far from the village of Konyukhi, at 53°08'21.1"N 83°40'52.5"E (but Google Maps doesn't show the new imagery yet).

Following the successful Bulava launch from the Vladimir Monomakh submarine earlier today, Admiral Chirkov, the commander of the Russian Navy, told the press that two more submarines will conduct Bulava launches this year - in October and in November. it's quite possible that at least one, if not two, of these will be salvo launches, so the original plan to have five launches before the missile begins combat service will hold.

Earlier, it was suggested that at least one 2014 launch - in November - will be done from Yuri Dolgorukiy.

On September 10, 2014 the Vladimir Monomakh submarine of the Project 995 Borey class successfully launched a Bulava missile from the White Sea toward the Kura test site at Kamchatka (this video appears to show the actual launch. UPDATE: No, it's probably a launch of a R-29RM Sineva/Liner. See the discussion in comments. UPDATE: Here is how a Bulava launch really looks like.). According to the ministry of defense, the launch was part of the state tests of the submarine, which is expected to join the fleet later this year. All warheads were said to successfully reach their targets.

This was the first Bulava launch after the September 2013 failure. At the time, the minister of defense ordered five additional "practical tests" before the missile can be accepted for service. These plans, however, have changed - in June 2014 the ministry of defense announced that only two launches will take place in 2014 and it appears that submarines have started receiving their missiles. At some point it looked like the first 2014 launch will be conducted by Yuri Dolgorukiy, indicating that it is missile that is being tested, not the submarine. But eventually Bulava was launched from Vladimir Monomakh.