Missile defense interceptors in Europe and intermediate-range missiles were not the only topic of the press-conference that Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, the commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, gave in Moscow on February 19th. He said a few things about his service as well.

First, he outlined the status of the missile life extension program. According to Solovtsov, SS-25/Topol missiles are certified to serve 20 years (I should note that 23 years was mentioned earlier), SS-19/UR-100NUTTH - 30 years, SS-18/R-36MUTTH - 25 years, and SS-18/R-36M2 - 20 years. This means, among other things, that decommissioning of missiles will continue. In 2007, the Rocket Forces will begin withdrawal of SS-19/UR-100NTTH missiles from the division in Kozelsk.

Then, he announced that the Rocket Forces are planning to conduct 12 missile launches (these include at least five launches of the Dnepr launcher from Dombarovskyy/Yasnyy and Baykonur).

Finally, Gen. Solovtsov discussed the readiness of missiles. "Out of every hundred missiles on combat duty, 97 or 98 are ready to complete their mission every minute and every second" - he said. Since Solovtsov was talking about "technical readiness coefficient", this does not necessarily mean that the missiles are kept on what is known as "hair-trigger alert", being ready to launch any second. On the other hand, I would guess that they are, since keeping them on alert is probably the only way to maintain that high degree of technical readiness.