Katayev_Anti-SDI_Programs_Image.pngIn his address to the parliament earlier this month the Russian president unveiled a small zoo of strategic programs that are supposed to counter U.S. missile defense (or make it "impotent and obsolete"). Some of these systems were not entirely new - we knew about the ejection test of the Sarmat missile, the Status-6 underwater drone, and, of course, about the Avangard hypersonic glider that was known as Project 4202 or Yu-71. A number of people pointed out that the Kinzhal "hypersonic" missile appears to be an air-launched modification of the Iskander ballistic missile and that there were reports about something like that in the past. The only genuinely new system seems to be the nuclear-powered cruise missile, which doesn't have a name yet.

With the exception of Kinzhal, none of these systems appear to be close to operational capability. Yes, it's been said that tests were successful, but for Sarmat it was only the first ejection test; Status-6 and the cruise missile seem to be at the point of proof-of-principle tests of their nuclear reactors and propulsion systems. As for Avangard, it probably had two successful test flights, but is not clear if it is fully ready for deployment. On the other hand, there is no reason to believe that these systems cannot become operational in the next few years, now that they are likely to be treated as priority programs.

It is not surprising that the defense industry used the specter of missile defense to get support for its programs. In fact, we have seen this before. In 1985, the Soviet defense industry put together a series of programs that were supposed to counter U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative. I described the history of these programs in my "Did Star Wars Helped End the Cold War?" paper last year. But I thought that the list of those programs may be of some interest as well. That list comes from Vitaly Katayev's notes - he compiled a table of the programs that were included in the four anti-SDI programs at the time. Here is the document:

Программы противодействия ПРО

The table contains some interesting entries. For example, the hypersonic glider is there - it was known as Albatross then. A few other programs survived to this day as well, but most were abandoned. One word of caution - most of the anti-SDI systems existed before SDI, but of course the missile defense presented a perfect excuse for the industry to put everything in one package to ensure that they get the support they wanted. The current list of anti-missile defense programs seems to be much shorter, but the basic idea is the same.