Jeffrey LewisCrowdsourcing Russian ICBMs

Russian ICBMs
NATO RUSSIA Warheads Stages Fuel Basing Range (km) No.
SS-18 Mod 5 (SATAN) RS-20/R-36M2 (Voyevoda) 10 2 +PBV Liquid Silo


About 50

SS-19 Mod 3 (STILLETO) RS-18/UR-100NUTTH 6 2 +PBV Liquid Silo


About 50

SS-25 (SICKEL) RS-12M 1 3 +PBV Solid Road-mobile


More than 150

SS-27 Mod 1 RS-12M2 (Topol M) 1 3 +PBV Solid Silo & road mobile


About 80

SS-27 Mod 2 RS-24 (Yars) Multiple 3 +PBV Solid Silo & road mobile


About 20

New ICBM RS-26 (Rubezh) Undetermined At least 2 Solid Road mobile


Not yet deployed

(Samart) Multiple Liquid Silo

Not yet deployed

Source: NASIC, Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat, with a lot of help from Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces.

Sorry about the eye-chart, but I am trying to sort through the mess of Russian ICBMs. Having done what I think is a passable first cut, I wanted to crowdsource the rest of it.

The Russians have been modernizing their ICBM force, which means there are a mess of new designations in the past few years. Sometimes, these get confused in the press. I wanted to sort through them for something I plan to write on Russian compliance (or lack thereof) with the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Additional notes below the jump.  Comments welcome:

I’ve seen the NATO designation for the  SS-27 given as either SICKEL B or STALIN.  There are no definitive usages on .gov or .mil sites of either. I really hope it’s STALIN because that would be all sorts of mustachioed awesomeness.

There are some press reports that describe the Rs-24 Yars (SS-27 Mod 2) as the “SS-29”.  NASIC uses SS-27 Mod 2, which I believe reflects a dispute with the Russians. START prohibited increasing the number of warheads attributed to ICBMs, so the Russians claimed the RS-24 was a completely new ICBM.  (Pavel Podig explained this problem in great detail.) The US IC always believed that Yars was just a fancy Topol M in violation of the START Treaty, something that is reflected in both the Mod 2 designation and the illustrations showing the SS-27 Mod 1 and Mod 2 to be identical.

NASIC does not mention that Russia may deploy rail-mobile SS-27 Mod 2s.  Don’t want to overlook that.

If I had to guess, I would think “SS-X-29” refers to the Rubezh, which is the missile that is causing one-half the INF troubles.  (The other missile is a ground-launched cruise missile.)  Pavel Podvig has a nice round-up on the missile and launcher, but I suspect the Rubezh is based on the first (and perhaps second) stage of the Topol-M/Yars.

The new liquid-fueled heavy ICBM is called Sarmat.  That doesn’t appear in the NASIC report, but its coming.  Another one we don’t want to forget.

Finally, there were reports of a missile called Vangaurd (or Avangard).  I wonder if that was an early name for Rubezh.  At this point, I think that one is vapor-ware.



  1. Matthew Johnston (History)

    Hey all, I have a few things to add from my own research last semester mostly using Russian sources. If anyone is interested in some of the specific the info here, and speaks Russian, I can dig up the specific sources and pass them along.

    First and interesting note is the service life of the missiles vs how long they have been in service. The SS-18 M5s were deployed in 1988 with a planned service life of 15 years, which has now been extended to past 30. Also it is important to note that the factory which produced the SS-18s, and still makes parts to sustain them, is in Ukraine. So it is extremely unlikely that anything new will come from there any time soon. The SS-19 M3s were deployed in 1980 with a 21 year service life, also extended past 30 years. The Topol deployments began in 1988 with a planned 25 year service life, which puts them right at the stage where life extension or retirement is now an issue. Same goes for the first Topol-M which were first deployed in 1997 with planned 15 year service life.

    Another thing of note is the trend in new deployments and retirement. The number of SS-18s, 19s and SS-25s has been going down over the last few years, the number of Topol-M is stable (production is over, but no mass retirements yet), and the number of Yars is increasing at a planned rate of 18ish a year with both mobile and now silo based missiles (which to me seems a bit overoptimistic based on their past production numbers).

    Soon there may be a Yars-M as well, which might or might not be the same as the Rubezh. My money says that it is an incremental upgrade of the Yars in the same way that the Yars is an upgrade of the Topol-M. Then there are also some past references to the Avangard, which may or may not be related to the Rubezh or Topol-M. This means there are between 1 and 3 new Russian solid fueled missiles in development, my guess is that it is 2.

    The new liquid fueled ICBM Sarmat makes sense for the Russians since about 75 percent of their land based warheads are deployed on the very old liquid fueled ICBMs. Sources quoted in the Russian media say it should be around by 2020. The idea of new, rail based missiles are talked about by Russian leaders from time to time, but I am yet to see any concrete references for their development/production plans.

    We should also think about Russian boost glide warhead plans (a new debate perhaps like the MIRV debate before?). Some of their recent missile tests seem to be for this technology, more often than not accompanied by statements about their plans to make their missiles immune to the US ABM system by using new warhead designs.

    In fact 2020 seems to be the big year for Russian Strategic Rocket forces planning since it is used as the deadline for new missiles and a projected retirement date for some of their old ones.

    Here is a nice article from Bryan Lee and Jerry Davydov of CNS describing Russian modernization as ‘recapitalization’ not a major policy shift:

    The more I dig into this issue, the more confusing it gets! But this is a good conversation to be having.


  2. Pavel (History)

    Looks good. A few small corrections/additions:

    R-36M2 was RS-20V in START – this designation is very much in use (R-36MUTTH was RS-20B).

    SS-25 is SICKLE. The Russian name is Topol. RS-12M is the START name. The number of deployed Topols is closer to 100 than to 150.

    There are 78 deployed Topol-M missiles – this number is reasonably solid.

    I don’t think SICKLE 2 designation would be appropriate/correct – Topol-M is very much a new missile that has little to do with Topol. It got its -M suffix only because of the START compliance issues. I’m not sure about STALIN, though – at some point I stopped taking these names seriously.

    There are more than 30 RS-24 Yars missiles already deployed (a few were deployed in December). My estimate is 33 as of now.

    RS-26 Rubezh will reportedly carry three warheads. The demonstrated 5500+ km range is most likely for a missile with single warhead. It’s possible that we see a replay of the SS-20 story – that missile was based on the first two stages of Temp-2S/SS-16 ICBM.

    There is a typo in the table – the new liquid-fuel missile is Sarmat.

    Avangard is a bit of a mystery, but it’s probably not related to Rubezh.

  3. Mark Gubrud (History)

    Oh, do they still have those? Maybe we need to rethink this whole thing.

  4. Marius (History)

    According to, the Nato designation for the SS-27 is SICKLE-B mod 1 and RS-24 Yars is SICKLE-B mod 2. The Russian designation for the SS-X-29 is “RS-12PM-OS Universal”. You can check out the designations in this PDF document:

    • Jeffrey (History)

      DTIG is not a reliable source, unfortunately.

    • Pavel (History)

      It looks like these days people are just making these names up. SICKLE-B doesn’t make sense and shows that has little idea of what they are talking about. “RS-12PM-OS Universal” is something they just pulled out of, well, you know… Universal was the name of the system that later became Topol-M. I don’t see how it could possibly be related to Rubezh.

    • Marius (History)

      I’m sorry for that. I didn’t know that is unreliable. I only knew, that they had this PDF document with all those missile designations.


    • Jeffrey (History)

      No need for apologies!

  5. Bradley Laing (History)

    —“Nobody told there’d be days like these.”

    —John Lennon

    The New Logo For North Korea’s Space Agency Looks Quite Familiar

    Read more:

  6. Hans Kristensen (History)

    Sorry to see that the Nuclear Notebook didn’t make the cut for crowdsourcing. In case someone wants to study our latest estimate of Russian forces anyway the link is

    • Jeffrey (History)

      I wasn’t interested relying in secondary sources, which is where a lot of the confusion comes from. I wanted to take official US documents, supplemented by Russian-language press.

  7. Alicia (History)

    I suggest adding a column to identify when the missile was first deployed. This data is perhaps too vague for the purposes of a chart, but after reading an exchange between Pavel and Bernd at Russian Strategic Forces blog (, I thought it would be useful to note when VPK or Rossiskaya Gazeta announced deployed or accepted into service. This is really for the edification of the media; as you know some have portrayed Russia’s missile modernization as a creature of the invasion of Eastern Ukraine.