Jeffrey LewisTopol Wonkporn

A little hot Topol action to spice up Sunday.

Pavel Podvig’s Russian Strategic Forces blog has been extensively covering the Topol deployment


  1. Anna (History)

    This is intense and just may be the coolest visual I’ve seen in awhile. That part about how Topol-M can break through the ‘adversary’s missile defenses’, and how ‘there is no computer in existence that could calculate the logic of the behavior’ of the Topol makes one wanna go “Ooh…” As intended, of course… 🙂

  2. Andy (History)

    You know that the wording you’ve chosen for this post means little wonkers probably won’t be able to see the site through their net nanny filters.

  3. Geoff Forden (History)

    This film, with its very brief segment showing the Topal M deploying balloon countermeasures, ties in with the current debate on US NMD in Europe very nicely. If you believe that Russia should have a credible deterrent and that this stabilizes the nuclear standoff between the US and Russia, then you should be worried about the X-band radar in the Czech Republic. That radar will be capable of watching the launches of most Topol-M missiles—including the deployment of these balloons—and feed that information back to US defenses. That radar will be so powerful and sophisticated that it will be able to image the balloons as they deploy. With that information, the US might well be able to discriminate between balloons and actual warheads. If the US continues to deploy ABM interceptors, and there are not any constraints on the US now that its left the ABM treaty, then Russia’s nuclear deterrent might well be compromised. This is far from a good or safe development for the US since Russia might very well feel an increased pressure to respond prematurely to future events, including benign events that are misinterpreted like the 1995 Norway sounding rocket incident.

  4. Richard Cranium (History)

    I think its interesting that the narrator says that the Topol-M dispenses 4 false warheads to protect the three real ones that it carries. I thought that the Topol-M was only attributed with one warhead according to START.

  5. yale (History)

    For those wishing to see a more extended video of balloon decoys, then a nice animation (needs Realplayer) from UCS can be seen HERE

  6. Rovas

    Not everybody knows russian. Need subtitles :).They should talk about computers look at theirs

  7. Richard Cranium (History)

    Translation of the transcript follows:

    A fifth generation missile system is the new wonder weapon of the 21st century. Not only journalists specializing in military affairs have bestowed this title upon the Topol-M, but also more discriminating experts. Today, the Topol-M is the most modern Russian missile system. Its developer is the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology. The Topol-M, known in the West as the SS-27, came about as the result of further modification of the well known Topol system. It is equipped with the modern ICBM RS-12M2. This missile has three modernized solid rocket engines, thanks to which it can depart the launch area before enemy reconnaissance satellites can get a fix on its coordinates. A few dozen auxiliary engines and a more modern guidance system make the missiles flight difficult for the enemy’s ABM computer systems to predict. In order to confuse them, the new Topol, while carrying three warheads, dispenses an additional four decoys.

    Missile launch can be accomplished from any point along its patrol route. If necessary, this can be done directly from its hanger during preventative maintenance through a retractable roof. In order to launch from an unequipped position, the launcher deploys its jack pads.

    It takes around two minutes to prepare for launch. After raising the pencil box into a vertical position and popping off the cap, the launch assist device pushes the missile up a few meters. Then the first stage rocket motor ignites.

    It is planned that the Topol-M will replace 270 silo-based, multiple warhead missiles. These are mostly liquid fueled ICBMs and the solid fueled RS-22 (SS-24), created back in the beginning of the 80s. They will be replaced by 350 mobile systems based on an eight-axle MAZ prime mover.

    It is the military’s intention that the Topol-M should make up the backbone of the Strategic Rocket Forces beginning after 2015 until the middle of the 21st Century.

    The silo variant of the missile is already on combat duty. Today, the RS-12M2 system equips four missile regiments. Each regiment has 10 launchers. To put things in perspective, the Ministry of Defense plans to field several divisions in the SRF armed with this missile.

    As far as the mobile Topol-M goes, starting next year, three to six missiles will be placed on combat duty each year. Several divisions of the SRF will be equipped with this missile.

    The Topol-M is in all actuality a unique defense system. There is no analogous system in the world. It is equipped with the most modern ICBM, capable of hypersonic speeds and with the ability to vary its flight trajectory in both altitude and course. This missile can penetrate any enemy anti-missile system at any strategic depth. There hasn’t been a computer invented that could be able to calculate the behavioral logic of the new Russian missile system. According to experts in NATO, today the SS-27 cancels out all the American efforts at creating a national missile defense system. Everyone says that the USA has to recreate its ABM system from scratch.

  8. yale (History)

    Altho the X-Band radar in the Czech Republic could compromise the TOPOL-M decoys, I think that the Russians would work around that.

    The TOPOL system is more complex than the unattributed Union of Concerned Scientists animation clip imbedded in their sexy Military-Channelesque video implies.

    The TOPOL uses a very fast and low boost phase, coupled with a low and flat trajectory (and potentially a “Crazy Ivan” dynamic terminal-phase warhead.

    Their westerly launch sites may be compromisable, but by shifting sites east, the RV and decoy deployment could be under the horizon.

    In addition to the single 1/2 megaton warhead (with the option of 2 more), the bus holds 4 decoy RVs. These match the Big Enchilada in radar cross-section, thermal sig, and intra-atmosphere mass.

    That means that even if the balloon deployment is tracked, the US would still be unable to resolve the actual RV with more than 0.2 assurance.

    With a buttload of balloons, maybe a burst of chaff, 5 identical RVS, and a low altitude deployment off to the east, it would be a real challenge for the ABM radars.

    The real US provocation is the agressively forward deployment of the ABM base in Czech Republic, right in the mid-gut of the Russians.