VorkutaRadarJun2016.pngThe construction of the early-warning radar in Vorkuta that began in September 2015 has made enough progress to be visible from space. Sean O'Connor located the radar site on a June 2016 Google Earth image. Click on the image above to see the radar on Google Maps.

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It is interesting that the new radar is pretty far from the old Daryal site. The distance is about 400 km. it shouldn't matter much for the primary mission, though.

Construction of the new early-warning radar at the Olenegorsk site began in the spring of 2016. At this point it's just a hole in the ground and the flat terrain makes geolocation rather difficult. But the new site is probably not far from the old Dnepr/Daugava site.

This is probably the last in the series of new early-warning radars that Russia will build in the coming years. At least that was the plan in 2013. It appears that the new Olenegorsk radar will be of the Voronezh-VP type, similar to those built in Mishelevka and Vorkuta.

Vladimir Monomakh, the third submarine of the Project 955 class, is said to have left its temporary base in Severomorsk to begin transfer to the Pacific. It is expected to reach its permanent base in Vilyuchinsk in September. There, Vladimir Monomakh will join another Project 955 submarine, Alexander Nevskiy, which completed the transfer in September 2015. (Check Hans Kristensen's excellent post on the upgrades done at Vilyuchinsk.)

Vladimir Monomakh was expected to conduct a salvo launch of Bulava missiles in June 2016, but it has left without launching the missiles. It is possible that it will launch the missiles from the Pacific, but maybe it won't - at the time Alexander Nevskiy arrived in the Pacific it was reported that it will conduct a launch from there, but it didn't.

On 5 July 2016, Svyatoy Georgiy Pobedonosets, a Project 66BDR/Delta III class submarine, returned to its base in Vilyuchinsk after a combat patrol.

It is quite remarkable that these submarines are still in service--K-433 Sv. Georgiy Pobedonosets was accepted for service 1980, so it is 36 years old. Even accounting for the fact that she spent most of its service life at a pier, she is an old submarine. The R-29R missiles are getting old too, of course, but they are probably replaced regularly. The Soviet Union produced a lot of SLBMs, so Russia will not run out of missiles for quite some time. We know that there were 4.3 missiles produced for each R-29R launcher, so at some point Russia had almost 1000 missiles of this type. Even though several hundred were probably expended in flight tests over the years, it should be possible to find enough missiles to put on the three Project 667BDR submarines that still remain in service. And they seem to be in good shape - K-223 Podolsk launched its R-29R missile during the exercise in October 2015.

Delta III submarines will probably retire after new Project 955 Borey submarines take their place in the Pacific. But there are plans to keep at least some old submarines in service -- Ryazan has been undergoing overhaul and will return to the fleet in some capacity.

The first tests of the Sarmat ICBM is now said to be postponed until the end of 2016. The report quotes an unnamed source in the industry as saying that the reason for the delay is a problem discovered during engine firing tests. In any event, first tests will not involve actual flight - these are pop-up tests to check the silo cold start sequence.

The ministry of defense initially planned to begin Sarmat tests in 2015. That didn't happen, reportedly because of the transfer of the tests from Baykonur to Plesetsk. Since Plesetsk didn't have a silo that would be immediately ready to accept the new missile, that led to another delay - to the second half of 2016. (It is still not clear, by the way, which silo will be used for Sarmat tests.) But now the delay appears to have something to do with the missile.

According to an industry source quoted by TASS, the new Project 955 submarine Knyaz Vladimir will be accepted for service in 2018--a year later than planned. Construction of the submarine began in July 2012. The Kazan multipurpose submarine of the Project 885M class will also join the fleet in 2018. Kazan and Knyaz Vladimir are expected to be launched in December 2016 and March 2017 respectively.

Knyaz Vladimir is the fourth submarine of the Project 955 class (it is also often classified as Project 955A). The fifth submarine, Knyaz Oleg, is expected to join the fleet in 2019 (it was laid down in July 2014), the sixth and seventh Generalissimus Suvorov (December 2014) and Imperator Alexander III (December 2015) will follow in 2020. The eighth and final Project 955 Borey submarine (to be laid down in December 2016) is expected to begin service in 2021.

Russian press quotes Vladimir Degtyar, the director of the Makeyev Design Bureau, as saying that his bureau is working on a new ballistic missile. Apparently the contract announcement has been posted at zakupki.gov.ru, but I cannot find it at the moment. In any event, Degtyar's words suggest that its a new missile, different from Sarmat:

Today, we work on several contracts for the defense ministry, developing land-based and sea-based ballistic missiles. It's the new heavy ballistic missile Sarmat [...] and development [опытно-конструкторские разработки] of a new prospective machine [=ballistic missile]

The Izvestia author speculates that this might be a new SLBM, but the evidence he gives is extremely thin, so it's in the "not confirmed" category for the moment. However, it is quite likely that it is indeed a new SLBM - there is hardly a place for another land-based missile. Moreover, I would not be surprised at all if Makeyev works on a new liquid-fuel SLBM. I hope we will find out.

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A fresh photo above shows some construction activity at the Chekhov radar site near Moscow. The old Dunay-3U radar that was built there in the late 1970s as part of the missile defense system, but has been used mostly for space surveillance in recent years. Or, rather, half of the radar - it's eastward-looking part of the radar has been shut down.

Now there seems to be a fresh construction activity at the radar site - there is nothing there at the September 2015 Google Earth image:

There is also some fresh construction at the transmitter site (which Google doesn't show yet):

The purpose of this activity is not entirely clear. A rumor has it that it might be related to (among other things) to the Nudol ASAT program.

Dmitry Donskoy submarine of the Project 941 class will remain in service until 2020, according to an industry source quoted in the Russian press. The submarine, which was used to as a test bed for Bulava missile, is expected to take part in tests of a Bulava follow-on.

The last time Dmitry Donskoy launched Bulava was in October 2010. After that, all Bulava launches were conducted from Project 955 submarines. In the most recent one, in November 2015, two missiles were launched from Vladimir Monomakh.

On June 21, 2016 the Air and Space Forces successfully tested a short-range interceptor of the A-135 missile defense system. The interceptor, apparently 53T6, known as Gazelle, was launched at 7:00 MSK (4:00 UTC) and is said to have successfully reach its goal. The test was supported by the Sary-Shagan crews of the Strategic Rocket Forces and industry representatives.

This appears to be a regular annual test of the interceptor. The previous one took place in June 2015.