The harsh reality of ageing missiles has finally started to affect the Strategic Rocket Forces in a serious way. According to Kommersant, the number of missiles will be cut by almost a half in the coming five years - in 2010 the Rocket Forces expect to have 313 operational missiles. This is higher than my projection of 150 missiles by the end of the decade, but the bulk of the difference is in about 150 Topol/SS-25 missiles, which will not survive for very long beyond 2010, so I will stick with my estimate.

All the reductions have been expected and most of them are already well underway - the missile divisions in Kartaly (R-36MUTTH/SS-18) and Kostroma (RT-23UTTH/rail-mobile SS-24) are being disbanded. UR-100NUTTH/SS-19 and Topol/SS-25 missiles are being withdrawn as well.

I'll make an update as soon as I get the START data, but the aggregate numbers tell us that Russia currently has 496 land-based missiles. Right now we can tell what's going on with SS-18 missiles - in addition to the 16 missiles of the Kartaly division, six R-36MUTTH/SS-18 missiles have been liquidated in Dombarovsky (to make way for the space launch site?). This leaves 86 SS-18 missiles, the number that according to Kommersant will go down to 40 after all older R-36MUTTH will be withdrawn from service.

As far as new deployment, the SRF projections reported by Kommersant seem fairly modest. The plan is to deploy 49 new Topol-M missiles by 2010 - 24 silo-based and 15 road-mobile. This is in perfect agreement with the recent rate of deployment of four silo-base missiles a year and the projected deployment rate of the road-mobile version of three missiles annually.