After the release of the last START data exchange in 2009 it has become rather difficult to get a good breakdown of the numbers of deployed launchers and warheads   - the aggregate New START numbers leave too much room for uncertainty. Still, it's been a while wince the last update, so it is time a new attempt to make sense of the New START numbers.

According to the most recent data exchange, as of 1 September 2013 Russia had 1400 warheads associated with 473 deployed launchers. It is 19 launchers and 80 warheads less than in March 2013 - quite a significant drop. It's hard to get the structure of the strategic forces working back from these two numbers, so I'll try to start with what we know about deployed systems and then see if the numbers match (although I know that they don't).

The bombers, with all the uncertainty, don't affect the final numbers much. Although we don't know how many of them are counted in New START as deployed, the previous estimate seems to be reasonably good - 11 Tu-160 and 55 Tu-95MS. In 2009, Russia declared 13 operational Tu-160 bombers (there were also seven test aircraft), but it appears that one or two bombers are in overhaul at any given time, so if we count operational ones, then the number is probably closer to 11. Tu-95MS bombers are more difficult to count, but at some point there was a plan to have 59 of them in 2009, so, given that about two would be in overhaul, 55 seems like a reasonable estimate.

New START counts each bomber as one deployed launcher and one deployed warhead, so the 66 bombers would be counted as carrying 66 warheads. In reality, they could carry more - Hans Kristensen suggests that "a couple of hundred weapons are present at the two bomber bases."

There is more information about submarines, as they are relatively easy to count. However, we do not necessarily know whether a particular submarine is loaded with a full complement of missiles and, in fact, how many warheads these missiles carry. There is, for example, some uncertainty about the Liner version of the R-29RM missile - it could carry four, eight, or ten warheads. I think there is a good reason to believe that all new R-29RM missiles still carry four warheads, but we don't know that for sure.

The two Project 955 Borey submarines, Yuri Dolgorukiy and Alexandr Nevskiy, which were transferred to the Navy this year, still have no missiles on board, so their launchers would not be counted as deployed for the New START (or any other) purposes.

Submarines of the Project 667BDRM class have been gradually completing overhaul, so right now five of the six submarines of this type would be considered operational - Tula, Bryansk, Novomoskovsk, Karelia, and Verkhoturie. Ekaterinburg is still at the Zvezdochka plant in Severodvinsk undergoing repair after the fire in December 2011. It is expected to return to the fleet in 2014. Assuming that the five submarines are loaded with missiles, the Project 667BDRM fleet would account for 80 launchers and 320 warheads.

Of the three Project 667BDR submarines based in the Pacific, only two stay in Vilyuchinsk - Sv. Georgiy Pobedonosets and Podolsk. Ryazan was transferred to the Zvezda plant near Vladivistok some time in 2012, so it is safe to assume that it had its missiles removed. As for the two submarines in Vilyuchinsk, only Sv. Georgiy Pobedonosets appears to be in full readiness - most recently it launched a missile during the strategic exercise in October 2013. There have been no news about Podolsk for more than a decade now, so it's not clear if that submarine is alive. If we assume that it is, Project 667BDR submarines contribute 32 missiles and 96 warheads to the New START count.

If the assumptions above are correct, the share of SLBMs in the New START aggregate numbers is 112 missiles and 416 warheads.

All this leaves about 300 launchers and a bit under 1000 warheads in the Strategic Rocket Forces. To be exact, the numbers are 295 and 918 respectively, but this would imply the accuracy that these number just don't have.

There are five different types of ICBMs that are currently deployed - R-36M2/SS-18, UR-100NUTTH/SS-19, Topol/SS-25, Topol-M (both silo and road-mobile), and RS-24 Yars (only road-mobile so far).

It appears that the Rocket Forces operate 52 R-36M2 missiles. These are deployed at two bases - Dombarovskiy and Uzhur. I assume that Dombarovskiy has 24 (in four missile regiments) and Uzhur - 28 (also four regiments, of which one has ten missiles). With ten warheads per missiles, 520 R-36M2 warheads account for roughly half of all ICBM warheads and for more than a third of all deployed nuclear warheads.

Until recently UR-100NUTTH missiles were deployed at two bases - Tatishchevo and Kozelsk. Since the Kozelsk division is being prepared to host silo-based RS-24 Yars, I assume that all UR-100NUTTH missiles have been removed from that base. This would leave 40 operational UR-100NUTTH missiles with 240 warheads in Tatishchevo.

Topol is a single-warhead road-mobile missile that appear to be deployed with the divisions in Yoshkar-Ola (27 missiles), Vypolzovo (18), and Barnaul (36). In addition, there are still some Topol missiles in the divisions that are being converted to receive RS-24 Yars - I assume that there are 9 Topol ICBMs in Irkutsk and 18 in Novosibirsk. Overall, this would add up to 108 Topol ICBMs with 108 warheads.

Topol-M is also a single-warhead missiles that is currently deployed in 60 silos in Tatishchevo and on 18 road-mobile launchers in Teykovo. This means that Topol-M adds 78 missiles and 78 warheads.

Finally, as of the end of 2013, the new RS-24 Yars - a MIRVed version of Topol-M - was deployed with two regiments in Teykovo (the total of 18 missiles), one regiment in Novosibirsk (9 missiles) and one incomplete regiment (6 missiles) in Nizhniy Tagil. It is not clear if the 15 missiles in Novosibirsk and Nizhniy Tagil would be included in New START as deployed launchers - they became operational only at the end of the year - but they would have to be included in the final number.

One of the problems with RS-24 Yars is that there is no official data on the number of warheads associated with the missile. At some point it was believed that it has six warheads, but in his more recent estimates Hans Kristensen, who seems to have good sources, lists the missile as carrying four. I would trust his number (and also note that if it's six then it is much more difficult to reconcile the New START launchers and warhead numbers).

So, as of the end of 2013, Russia seemed to have 33 RS-24 Yars ICBMs with 132 warheads (only some of them would be included in the September 2013 New START data exchange).

The ICBM bottom line is that at the end of 2013 Russia was estimated to have 311 missiles with 1078 warheads.

One problem with the numbers above is that if we add everything up, we'll get 489 launchers and 1560 warheads. The number of launchers is roughly compatible with the New START data, but the warhead count is much higher - by more than 100 warheads. I am not quite sure how to explain this difference. One possibility is that missiles were (temporarily) removed from one of the submarines and (permanently) from some of the ICBMs (e.g. from some UR-100NUTTH). We'll have to wait for the March 2014 data to see if they help clarify the situation.

To sum it up, I estimate that in January 2014, Russia had 489 operational strategic launchers - 311 ICBMs, 112 SLBMs, and 66 bombers. The total number of strategic warheads associated with these launchers was about 1700 - 1078 on ICBMs, 416 SLBM warheads, and about 200 nuclear weapons that could be delivered by bombers.