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RT-23 at the Varshavsky Rail Terminal, St.Petersburg, Home of the Central Museum of Railway Transport, Russian Federation

The RT-23 (NATO reporting name SS-24 Scalpel) was a Soviet ICBM developed and produced by the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau before 1991. It is cold launched, and comes in silo and railway car based variants. It is a three stage missile that uses solid fuel and thrust vectoring for the first stage, with 10 MIRV warheads, each with 550 kt yield.


The missile was the culmination of a major Soviet effort to develop a medium solid-fueled missile with multiple basing modes: silo-based and rail-based versions were deployed, and a road-mobile version was considered but rejected. This made for a much more survivable ICBM, as the rail-based missiles could move around the rail network and thus be difficult to detect and track. The new missile was to replace the older liquid-fueled SS-19 missiles which were entirely silo-based. Its US counterpart was the MX missile.

The missile was tested through the 1980s and began to be deployed in 1987. Its production facilities were located in Ukraine. After the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Ukraine had no interest in producing ICBMs and so the production of the missile came to an end. A typical set of missile launch trains were composed of three M62 class locomotives (a standard diesel electric locomotive of the period), followed by generating power car, command car, support car, and three missile launch vehicles, with a total of nine-car train set. The frontmost locomotive is driven by three officers, and the two other engines right behind the front locomotive are driven by two enlisted personnel each. The missile launcher has a shape of a refrigerator car, and the service cars are those that were converted from passenger carriages.

Just before the breakup of the USSR, 92 missiles were operational, 36 based in stationary silos and 56 rail-based. The 36 silo-based missiles located in Ukraine were deactivated by mid 1996, disassembled and put into storage awaiting decision on a feasible disposition method, but the 56 missiles in Russia remained in service. The missile was to be banned under the provisions of START II, but that treaty was never ratified. The 10 silo-based missiles in Russia were deactivated around 2000. After 2000 the rail-based missiles were also gradually withdrawn from service, with the remaining 15 decommissioned in August 2005. Elimination of the last SS-24 ICBM in Russia was in April 2008.


PL-04 SS-24 SS-24V SS-24
NATO Scalpel Scalpel Scalpel Scalpel
Bilateral RS-22B RS-22A RS-22V
Service RT-23 RT-23 RT-23 UTTKh RT-23 UTTKh
GRAU 15Zh44 15Zh52 15Zh60 15Zh61
Design Bureau SKB-586, NPO Yuzhynoy Acad. V. F. Utkin SKB-586, NPO Yuzhnoye Acad. V. F. Utkin SKB-586, NPO Yuzhnoye Acad. V. F. Utkin SKB-586, NPO Yuzhnoye Acad. V. F. Utkin
Approved 23 July 1976 1 June 1979 9 August 1983 9 August 1983
Years of R&D January 1969 - March 1977 November 1982 - 1987 1983–1989 1983–1989
'Engineering and Testing'First Flight Test 26 October 1982 Failure, 12/1982 Success April 1984 31 July 1986 27 February 1985
IOC canceled 19 August 1988 12/1987
Deployment Date Canceled November 1987 28 November 1989 28 November 1989
Warheads 10 10 10 10
Payload (t) 4.05 4.05 4.05 4.05
Total length (m) 23.3 23.4 - 23.8 18.8 - 23.4 23.3
Total length w/o warhead (m) 18.8, 19 19 19 19
Missile Diameter (m) 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.4
Launch Mass (t) 104.5 104.5 104.5 104.5
Operating Range (km) 10,000 10,000 - 11,000 10,100 -11,000 10,100 - 10,450
CEP (m) 500 500 150-250 150-250
Basing Mode Silo Railroad

Former оperators

 Soviet Union and  Russia
The Strategic Missile Troops were the only operators of the RT-23 until the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Silo-based at Pervomaysk and Tatischevo
Rail-based at Kostroma, Perm, and Gladkaya[1]
The Armed Forces of Ukraine inherited 60 RT-23 missiles upon independence from the Soviet Union, all were sent to Russia by 1994.[citation needed]


See also

  • Peacekeeper Rail Garrison Car - the US counterpart
  • Varshavsky Rail Terminal, St.Petersburg, Home of the Central Museum of Railway Transport, Russian Federation which houses the sole surving RT-23 Molodets unit.


  1. Defense Intelligence Agency. SS-24 ICBM Weapon System. DST-1010S-073-93

External links

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