On 16 December 2020 Russia conducted another test of its Nudol anti-satellite system. There was no official announcement and the test was disclosed by the U.S. Space Command. Russia, however, did issue a formal NOTAM notification (as it normally does).

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This appears to be the 10th test of the system - a test in June 2019 was planned, but probably didn't take place (it is not in Jonathan McDowell's log of suborbital launches. The first two tests are known to be unsuccessful.

  1. 12 August 2014 - failure
  2. 22 April 2015 - failure
  3. 18 November 2015 - first successful test of the missile
  4. 25 May 2016
  5. 16 December 2016
  6. 26 March 2018 - first test from a mobile launcher
  7. 23 December 2018
  8. June 2019?
  9. 15 November 2019
  10. 15 April 2020
  11. 16 December 2020 - this test

The ministry of defense reports that the Rocket Forces installed another Avangard missile in a silo at the Dombarovskiy division.

Technically, the missile places in the silo is not yet Avangard - it is an old UR-100NUTTH/SS-19 missile that serves as a booster of the hypersonic glider. The glider will be installed on the missile later. The video also appears to show last year's deployment in the silo at 51.1925 59.635278.

This suggests that the Rocket Forces are close to the goal of adding two new Avangard systems to the division in Dombarovskiy, even if they are not quite there yet. The plan is to complete the rearmament of the first regiment of six missiles in 2021 and to deploy a total of 12 missiles by the end of 2027.

On 15 December 2020 the Barnaul missile division formally accepted for service its second Yars missile regiment. (The first one, 479th regiment at 53.769921, 83.95915, began combat duty in December 2019.) The news story about the event suggests that the regiment that received new missiles is the 480th regiment (53.3059, 84.14618).

According to an official defense ministry account of the year 2020, the Rocket Forces received "about 20" new Yars missiles. Earlier reports suggested that the division in Barnaul will receive two regiments in 2020. This means that another regiment in Barnaul is in the process of receiving Yars missiles (two Yars missiles were deployed in silos in Kozelsk in September 2020). It may still begin service in the last days of 2020 or, more likely, in the early days/months of 2021.

In 2021 the ministry of defense is planning to deploy 13 Yars and Avangard missiles. This appears to include two silo-based Yars in Kozelsk and two Avangards in Dombarovskiy, suggesting that one more regiment of nine Yars missiles will be added in Barnaul.

On 12 December 2020, the Vladimir Monomakh submarine of the Project 955 Borey class a salvo launch of four Bulava missiles from the Sea of Okhotsk toward the Chizha test range. It was the first Bulava launch conducted by a submarine based in the Pacific Fleet and the second four-missile salvo launch of Bulava. The previous launch of this kind took place in May 2018, when the missiles were launched from the Yuri Dolgorukiy submarine.

Vladimir Monomakh conducted its first launch in September 2014. In November 2015 it launched two Bulava missiles. That test did not go well - one missile was said to be damaged as it was leaving the launch tube and ended up missing its target (the second one was destroyed shortly after launch, but that appears to be deliberate). Some reports suggested that Vladimir Monomakh would try to launch a salvo again in June 2016, but it departed to the Pacific Fleet in August 2016 without repeating the attempt.

The test launch followed the strategic force exercise that took place on 9 December 2020.

The launches on 12 December 2020 were the 35-38th tests of Bulava. The 34th test took place in October 2019.

On 9 December 2020 Russia's strategic forces conducted an annual exercise, officially described as a "training of the control of the strategic offensive forces." The exercise, directed by the President of Russia, involved ICBM, SLBM, and ALCM launches.

A Yars ICBM was launched from a mobile launcher deployed at the Plesetsk test site toward the Kura range in Kamchatka. A Project 667BDRM/Delta IV submarine of the Northern Fleet launched its R-29RM ballistic missile from the Barents Sea.

Tu-160 and Tu-95MS strategic bombers conducted launches of air-launched cruise missiles at the Pemboy test range. The exercise involved bombers based in Engels and Ukrainka (almost certainly Tu-160 and Tu-95MS respectively). At least some of the cruise missiles were ALCMs of the Kh-101 type.

The original plan of the exercise apparently included a launch of an SLBM from one of the submarines of the Pacific Fleet. A corresponding NOTAM warning was released ahead of the exercise (source, h/t DS). The launch, however, did not take place. [UPDATE: The salvo launch of four Bulava missiles from the Vladimir Monomakh submarine was conducted on 12 December 2020]

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Last year's exercise did involve a launch of a R-29R SLBM from the Ryazan submarine of the Project 668BDR/Delta III class. It was, however, reported that the submarine launched only one of the two missiles prepared for the launch. It is also worth noting that Project 955 Borey submarines deployed in the Pacific never conducted test launches of their Bulava missiles from that region.

Normally, Russia holds these exercises in October - it was held on October 17th last year. The delay may have been caused by the pandemic, although no official statement to that effect was made.

The Air and Space Defense Forces conducted a successful test of the new interceptor of the Moscow missile defense system at the Sary-Shagan test site. According to a VKS representative, "after a series of tests the interceptor fully confirmed technical characteristics of the interceptor." The test appears to have taken place on 26 November 2020.

Previous test was conducted about a month earlier, on 28 October 2020.

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The video of the test shows a number of fragments leaving the silo right after the launch. These are somewhat unusual and may suggest that structures in the silo were damaged during the test.

The Air and Space Defense Forces conducted a successful test of the new interceptor of the Moscow missile defense system at the Sary-Shagan test site. According to a VKS representative, "after a series of tests the interceptor fully confirmed technical characteristics of the interceptor." The test appears to have taken place on 28 October 2020.

Previous test was conducted in July 2019.

The Air and Space Forces conducted a successful launch of a Soyuz-2.1b rocket from the launch pad No. 4 of the launch complex No. 43 of the Plesetsk space launch site. The launch took place at 22:08:42 MSK (19:08:42 UTC) on 25 October 2020. The satellite that the rocket and its Fregat boost stage delivered into orbit is a Glonass-K navigation satellite. The satellite was designated Cosmos-2547. It received international designation 2020-075A and was registered by NORAD as object No. 46805.

Most recent Glonass launch took place in March 2020. Previous Glonass-K launch was in December 2014.

A report of the ministry of defense teleconference that took place on 13 October 2020, mentions that in September 2020 the Strategic Rocket Forces installed two Yars missiles in silos of the Kozelsk missile division. This brings the number of silo-based Yars in Kozelsk to 14.

Deployment of the first Yars regiment - 74th missile regiment with ten missiles - was completed in December 2018. Now the missiles are deployed in silos of the 168th regiment. Two more missiles were deployed in 2019 and two - in 2020.

The U.S. State Department released aggregate New START numbers from the 1 September 2020 data exchange. Russia declared 1447 deployed warheads, 510 deployed launchers, and 764 total launchers. In March 2020 the numbers were 1326, 485, and 754 respectively.

The U.S. numbers in September 2020 were 1457 warheads, 675 deployed and 800 total launchers (1373, 655, and 800 in March 2020).

If the treaty is not extended, this will be the last regular data exchange between the parties. And it appears that inspections and BCC sessions, suspended be the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, have not resumed yet.