The Rocket Forces just celebrated the 47th anniversary of the service and on the occasion disclosed some of the missile deployment plans for the coming years.

As it turned out, out of the 17 missiles that the defense ministry is planning to procure in 2007, only five will be ICBMs – three mobile and two silo-based Topol-Ms. The other twelve are expected to be R-29RM Sineva SLBMs. Together with the four Sineva missiles produced in 2006, these missiles will be deployed on the Tula submarine that got back from overhaul in January 2006.

Deployment of Topol-M missiles will continue at the rate of 5-6 missiles a year. By 2010 the Rocket Forces expect to bring the number of silo-based Topol-Ms in Tatishchevo to 60 from the current 42. Three missiles are expected to be deployed there in the remaining days of this year. When all 60 missiles are in Tatishchevo, the Rocket Forces will begin deployment of silo-based Topol-Ms in former SS-18 silos in Uzhur.

This plan does not seem to leave place for mobile Topol-Ms in the next few years. If the 5-6 missiles a year rate is correct, only one new regiment of mobile missiles will be deployed by 2010. Overall, in 2007-2015, the Rocket Forces expect to buy 69 Topol-M missiles – 20 silo-based and 42 mobile ones. It was reported that the 45 mobile Topol-Ms that Russia is expected to have in 2015 will be deployed with three missile divisions, one of which is Teykovo.

Most of the 252 currently operational SS-25/Topol missiles will be decommissioned in the next two years. The Rocket Forces expect to withdraw 207 of them in 2007-2008. With the service life of 20 years, all SS-25/Topol missiles will probably be gone by 2012. As part of this process, the missile division in Kansk will join the currently liquidated division in Yur’ya. Others will probably follow as well. In addition to that, by the end of 2015 the SS-18/R-36M2 and SS-19/UR-100NUTTH missiles also will be withdrawn from service.

This means that in 2015 Russia will have an ICBM force of over 100 Topol-M missiles – 65 silo-based and 45 road-mobile ones. To make the force look bigger, the Rocket Forces apparently plan to put multiple warheads on Topol-M. Various numbers have been mentioned – from three to six or seven warheads. Some reports indicate that Topol-M will use the warhead section developed for the Bulava SLBM, which has been declared as having six warheads (this I would doubt – as far as warhead sections are concerned, SLBMs and ICBMs are quite different animals).

The idea of MIRVing Topol-M is not new – it has been discussed for a while, exactly in the context of making the ICBM force look “presentable”. After all, as some would argue, with 100 missiles Russia would delegate itself into the “China category”. I don’t think this is a valid argument, even if China will indeed build up its ICBM force (which it has had no intention of doing so far). There is hardly a reasonable military, political, or any other kind of mission for these missiles with a single warhead. MIRVing them just for the sake of artificially inflating the number of warheads would be really stupid.