The commander of the Yoshkar-Ola division of the Rocket Forces was quoted as saying (the original interview) that his division will replace the current Topol/SS-25 missiles with ICBMs of a new type, most likely RS-24 Yars. The division will join Novosibirsk and Nizhniy Tagil divisions that already have operational RS-24.

The Okno space surveillance system, locate in Tajikistan, has completed state acceptance trials and will begin combat service soon. The system includes what's described as "optico-eletronic observation tools" and allows observation of satellites at all altitudes.

The Okno complex dates back to the Soviet years, although it apparently received a major upgrade. It was described in detail by Allen Thomson some time ago.

On November 14, The K-84 Ekaterinburg submarine of the Project 667BDRM/Delta IV class went to sea to begin sea trials after an overhaul that began in June 2012. It is expected to return to the Zvezdochka shipyard in about three weeks and return to service later this year.

The commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, Gen.-Col. Sergey Karakayev said today that his service is planning to deploy 16 RS-24 Yars missile launchers in 2014.

It is not immediately clear if the 16 is the total number of missiles that will be deployed in 2014 or Karakayev referred to the ICBMs that will enter service between now and the end of the year. A year ago, President Putin said that the Rocket Forces will receive 22 new ICBMs. He did not specify the type of missiles in question, but there is no other ICBM that is currently being deployed, so it has to be RS-24 Yars.

It was reported earlier that the the Kozelsk division will receive four missiles in 2014. Even if these are counted as already deployed, the goal of 22 new ICBMs appears to be out of reach.

Indeed as I was reminded at the time of the most recent New START exchange, in October 2014, Karakayev said that nine Yars mobile launchers, six mobile and two silo-based Yars ICBMs had became operational. He expected to add eight more ICBMs and three mobile launchers by the end of the year. Two of these eight ICBMs are probably the silo-based missiles that were placed in silos in Kozelsk some time in late October (in addition to the two deployed there earlier). So, the breakdown of missiles deployed before the Karakayev October statement (October 13th) and after may look like this:

  • 12 mobile RS-24 launchers: 9 + 3
  • 12 mobile RS-24 ICBMs: 6 + 6
  • 4 silo-based RS-24 ICBMs: 2 + 2
Yes, it looks like the total for 2104 is 16 ICBMs, so unless the Rocket Forces are going to find four other missiles to deploy, the deployment will fall short of the plan. RS-26 is one possible candidate, but it is not expected to enter service until 2015.

Another possibility, of course, is that the 16 missiles will be deployed in addition to the six mobile RS-24 that were said to be operational in October. This seems unlikely, though, since it doesn't take into account the silo-based missiles. They would put the total number over 22 and Karakayev probably wouldn't want to miss an opportunity to mention that the actual deployment exceeded the goal set by the president.

After the first of the two successful Bulava launches conducted this year on September 10, 2014 the Russian Navy said that two more launches were planned in 2014. One of these took place on October 29, 2014. Another was expected (with some uncertainty) in November. However, today a source in the defense industry told Interfax that there will be no more launches in 2014. The next launch is now expected in the fall of 2015 from the Alexander Nevskiy submarine. It is possible that by that time the submarine will arrive at its base in Kamchatka, so the missile will be launched from the Sea of Okhotsk. Vladimir Monomakh is also expected to arrive to the Pacific Fleet and launch its missile from there.

UPDATE 11/11/2014: Not so fast - another anonymous source, this time from the General Staff, is quoted as saying that the launch from Alexander Nevskiy will take place in November, mist likely after November 20th. I added a question mark to the title of the post.

On November 6, 2014 the Strategic Rocket Forces with the support of the Kosmotras company carried out a successful launch of a Dnepr space launcher from the Yasnyy launch site at the Dombarovsky missile division. The launch took place at 10:35:49 MSK (07:35:49 UTC). The missile payload delivered into orbit included Japan's ASNARO satellite and four micro satellites.

The Dnepr launcher is a modified R-36MUTTH (SS-18/RS-20B) missile. Previous Dnepr launch took place in June 2014.

Quite a few people have noticed the relatively high level of activity of the Russian strategic forces - in the past few days Russia tested a Bulava SLBM from Yury Dolgorukiy submarine, a Topol-M missile from Plesetsk, and a Sineva missile from the Tula submarine. Its strategic bombers have also been very active recently. And this is probably not the end of it yet - the word is that Russia will launch an SS-18 ICBM (most likely R-36M2) from Dombarovskiy/Yasnyy in the coming days.

Given that all this is happening against the backdrop of the continuing crisis around Ukraine, it is perfectly legitimate to ask if all these launches and bomber patrols are supposed to send a message of some sort. My best guess is that they are not - what we see is the regular burst of activity that now happens every fall. In October 2013 Russia staged a major exercise of strategic forces, with two ICBM and two SLBM launches, a test of an ABM interceptor, cruise missile launches, and Tu-160 bombers visiting South America. In October 2012 we saw launches of an ABM interceptor, R-29R SLBM, Topol ICBM, cruise missiles from strategic bombers, and a new ICBM (R-26 Rubezh).

So, the launches of the fall of 2014 don't look unusual at all. Of course, the circumstances have changed, so now they may be perceived differently, but that is probably an unintended effect of the regular activity.

The ministry of defense reported that on November 5, 2014 the K-114 Tula submarine of the Project 667BDRM class successfully launched a R-29RM Sineva missile from the Barents Sea. The warheads were said to have reached their intended targets at the Kura test site in Kamchatka.

Tula has launched one of its missiles earlier this year, during a major exercise in May 2014.

According to one report, Tula will soon to transferred to Zvezdochka for overhaul.

Here is the video released by the ministry of defense:

On November 1, 2014, 9:20 MSK (6:20 UTC) the Strategic Rocket Forces performed a successful test launch of a silo-based Topol-M missile from the Plesetsk test site. The missile warhead successfully reached its target at the Kura site in Kamchatka.

Topol-M is technically considered a new missile, but the first missiles of this type were deployed in 1997, so most missiles are already close to their initially set service lives. The test was supposed to confirm that there are no problems with the rocket motors. If the service life of Topol-M was extended after the test, the Rocket Forces did not report it.

A close-up video of the launch:

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.