At a press-conference held in Moscow on December 10, 2004, the Commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, Col.-General Nikolay Solovtsov, described the plans for the future of the Russian missile forces.
The plans include continued deployment of Topol-M single-warhead missile. Four silo-based missiles of this type will be deployed by the end of this year, bringing the total to 40 missiles. One more regiment (up to ten missiles) will be deployed in 2005.
The road-mobile version of the Topol-M missile is still undergoing testing – the fourth and the last flight test will take place in December 2004. According to Solovtsov’s statement, deployment of mobile Topol-M regiments will not begin before 2006, after which the Strategic Rocket Forces plans to deploy from three to nine mobile missile systems annually.
The Strategic Rocket Forces will retire all RT-23UTTH (SS-24) rail-mobile missiles, completing the process that it began in 2003 by eliminating two of the three divisions equipped with these missiles and consolidating the rest in a division in Kostroma. This division will be disbanded in 2005.
Another division that will be disbanded in 2005 is the division in Kartaly, which included older modification of the heavy SS-18 missile – R-36MUTTH (also knows as RS-20B). According to Solovtsov, all missiles of this type will be withdrawn from service by 2008. He also stated that the remaining heavy missiles (known as R-36M2 or SS-18/RS-20V), will stay in service for 10-15 more years.
Some of the R-36MUTTH missiles will be used as space launchers. These launchers, known as Dnepr, have been used for launches of small satellite into low Earth orbit since 1999. All four launches conducted so far took place in Baykonur launch site. Baykonur is also the only site that has been available for training and test launches of combat missiles of the R-36M (SS-18) family. This is about to change – the Strategic Rocket Forces is preparing for the first training launch of a heavy missile from the Dombarovsky missile base, which is scheduled on December 22nd, 2004. Solovtsov stated that all future training launches of the R-36M2 missile – five to seven launches annually – will be conducted from Dombarovsky (which, unlike Baykonur, is located in Russia). It is likely that the site will be used for space launches of the Dnepr launcher as well – the company that markets SS-18 launch services, Kosmotras, was involved in preparations that made the launches from Dombarovsky possible.