Sunday, October 21, 2007

Russia test-launches Topol ICBM

Russia conducted on October 18 a test launch of its RS-12M Topol intercontinental ballistic missile, NATO codename SS-25 Sickle, from the Plesetsk Space Center. The Topol is a three-stage missile fired from a mobile launcher and is similar in size to the US Minuteman ICBM. It can carry a single 550kt nuclear warhead. 80 Topol missiles have been launched from the Plesetsk Space Center so far; 50 of those have been combat training launches.

The missile headed from the space center in the northwestern part of Russia, roughly 800 km northward of Moscow, toward the Kura impact range in the Kamchatka Peninsula where it hit its test target. A space center source told Interfax: "The launch has been carried out under a program for extending the service life of this type of missiles. Based upon its results, the service life of Topol missiles at the [Russian Strategic Rocket Forces] may be extended to 21 years". Other sources report on a possible extension of up to 23 years. The missile was first deployed in 1988 and had an original service life of 10 years.

The missile will be progressively retired over the next years and is being replaced by a mobile version of the Topol-M (SS-27) missile, which can carry up to six nuclear warheads.

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