December 2018 was the first time in a while when the Rocket Forces made no announcement of the missile launch plans for the upcoming year and said nothing about the number of missile launches conducted in the year that is ending. Maybe it's because these announcements were getting a bit embarrassing - normally the Rocket Forces would conduct about half of the planned launches (this old chart provides a good illustration).

The story repeated itself in 2018 - in December 2017, Sergey Karakayev, the commander of the Rocket Forces, announced that his service will conduct 12 launches in 2018. The actual number appears to be closer to two.

Counting missile launches in 2018 is not easy - there was virtually no official information this year. There were three official statements - in October 2018, the press quoted the ministry of defense as saying that the Air and Space Forces conducted three launches since December 2017 - two Sarmat ejection tests (in March 2018 and in May 2018 and a test of a Yars missile - apparently the one in June 2018 (no information was released at the time).

Then, at the end of December, Dmitry Rogozin tweeted that Roskosmos conducted 22 launches in 2018. Most of these were space launches, but two out of eight launches from Plesetsk were not. We know that one of them was the Yars launch in June 2018, but the identity of the second one is more difficult to establish.

There are a number of candidates. First is the test of Nudol ASAT system that took place in March 2018. I am not entirely certain that this would be something Roskosmos would take credit for, but colleagues tell me that since it was a suborbital launch it's a Roskosmos territory. But it probably shouldn't count as a Rocket Forces launch. In the past, RVSN did not take credit for Nudol tests.

[UPDATE 2/6/2019: Yes, it probably wasn't a Nudol launch - as it turns out, there was a second one in 2018, so if these are counted it would push the count over two.]

Other candidates for that second launch from Plesetsk are the event that was expected to take place during the October 2018 strategic exercise. A NOTAM warning was released, but nothing happened. Or maybe it did, but it went unannounced. Sounds possible, but more likely the test was postponed. Something similar happened in December 2018 - Russia released a NOTAM that covered December 23-25, but no launch was reported. I would judge that it is also unlikely that it was an actual launch. So, unless more information about ICBM comes out, I will count the March 2018 Nudol test as the second Plesetsk launch.

There were launches outside of Plesetsk, of course. It was difficult to miss the test of Avangard system from Dombarovskiy on 26 December 2018. This should probably count against the 12 launches in Karakayev statement.

Then, it appears that there was some activity at Kapustin Yar. There is fairly strong evidence that the event that took place there in early December 2018 was a failed launch of a Topol-E missile.

There is also some evidence that there was a launch of a missile, probably Topol-E, from Kapustin Yar to Sary Shagan in October 2018 - pieces of what looked conspicuously like fragments of a Topol first stage landed in Kazakhstan. Given that it landed outside of the designated areas the launch was probably not a success.

Putting it all together, it appears that Russia conducted only two successful ICBM launches in 2018, not 12 announced by Karakayev in December 2017. If we count Nudol, the number of successful launches will be three. Well, maybe the two Sarmat ejection tests were included in the 12 launches as well. These and the two apparent Kapustin Yar failures would bring the number of Rocket Forces tests to six (Nudol won't be included here), which, in fact, would be more in line with the historical record - the actual number is about half of what is planned.