It’s good to know that people read this blog, but sometimes it shows in unexpected ways. In a discussion of the RS-24 test, one of my readers sent me a copy of an article from Jane’s Missiles and Rockets devoted to the test. The article, “Russia tests a new ICBM” by Doug Richardson (who is the editor of the magazine, by the way), was the cover story of the June 5, 2007 issue of the magazine (the article is behind a subscription firewall).
As I was reading it, I was thinking that somehow the analysis in the article sounds very familiar. Then I realized that this is probably because I wrote much of it before. A couple of weeks before the test I published a post that looked at various MIRVing options for Bulava and Topol-M. What the Jane’s article does is it mostly repeats my analysis:
On historical data on throw-weight:
RussianForces.org: Historical data show that the weight of warheads comes to about half of the declared throw-weight of a missile. For example, this is true for a single-warhead Topol, whose warhead is under 500 kg, and for RT-23UTTH (SS-24) – its ten warheads weighed about 2000 kg (declared throw-weight of these missiles is 1000 and 4050 kg respectively). Another half of the payload is probably taken by the bus (for MIRVed missiles), missile defense penetration aids and things like that.
JMR: The entire throw weight of a MIRV ICBM cannot be devoted to warheads. In practice, about half is taken up by the post-boost vehicle (PBV) needed to dispense the MIRVs on their individual trajectories and by the decoys and penetration aids intended to confuse anti-missile defences.
On RT-23UTTH warheads:
Russianforces.org: Another option for Topol-M would be to have three warheads of the type deployed on RT-23UTTH/SS-24 – at about 200 kg each they would take about half of the throw-weight of the missile.
JMR: Some press reports have suggested that a MIRV Topol-M could use the warhead technology originally developed for the SS-24. This estimation suggests that the combined weight of each RT-23UTTH warhead and re-entry vehicle was around 170-200 kg. Three could probably be carried by a MIRVed Topol-M.
On lightweight warheads developed by the Soviet Union:
Russianforces.org: The most lightweight warheads deployed in the Soviet Union and Russia so far were those of R-29R and R-39 missiles, with weights in the 110-130 kg range (this includes reentry vehicle body and electronics) and yields of 50 and 75 kt respectively.
JMR: Russia's SLBM programmes seem to have spurred the development of the lightweight warheads. The MIRVs developed for the R-29R Volna (SS-N-18 'Stingray') and R-39 (SS-N-20 'Sturgeon') missiles probably have weights in the 100-120 kg range.
On a 90-kg (give or take five kilograms) warhead for Bulava:
Russianforces.org: According to the START data exchange […] Bulava is a six-warhead missile, whose throw-weight is declared as 1150 kg at the moment (START Treaty allows adjustment of the declared throw-weight based on the results of flight tests, so this number may change, but it is unlikely that it would change dramatically). […] Another possibility for Bulava is to have a new warhead […] [D]evelopment of a 90-kg warhead with a 75 to 100 kt yield would not require any breakthroughs [compared to R-39] and could probably be done without nuclear tests.
JMR: The newer SS-NX-30 Bulava has a declared throw weight of 1,150 kg, a figure that could be revised as result of flight testing, while the January 2006 START Memorandum of Understanding declares it to be able to carry six MIRVs. This would imply that each MIRV weighs about 95 kg, a figure that may be reasonable for design based on a modernized version of the technologies used in the R-29R and R-39 warheads, particularly if the new warhead was of lower yield and made greater use of weight-saving technologies such as large-scale integrated circuits.
Of course, it’s not verbatim, but the resemblance is fairly strong. In addition to that, there is no attribution of any kind – all this is presented as Jane’s original work. The article, of course, has some other analysis as well, but as an old Russia story goes, That work contained a lot of interesting and original ideas, but the interesting ones were not original and the original ones – not interesting.
Anyway, I’m quite puzzled. I guess I would be interested in hearing what Doug Richardson, the editor of JMR and the author of that article, thinks about all this, but I couldn’t find his e-mail at Jane’s web site. On the other hand, I know he reads this blog.