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RT-2PM Topol
SS-25 Sickle
Moscow Parad 2008 Ballist.jpg
A Topol mobile Launcher at a Victory Day Anniversary Parade Rehearsal in Moscow, 2008.
Type Intercontinental ballistic missile
Place of origin  Soviet Union
Service history
In service 1988–present
Used by Russian Strategic Rocket Forces
Production history
Designer Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology
Manufacturer Votkinsk Machine Building Plant
Weight 45,100 kg (99,400 lb)
Length 21.5 m (71 ft)
Diameter 1.8 m (5 ft 11 in)

Warhead Single 800 kt warhead

Engine Three-stage solid propellant
10,500 km (6,500 mi)
Speed approx. 7 km/s
Inertial, autonomous
Accuracy 200 m CEP
Road-mobile TEL
SS-25 Sickle in Siberia.jpg

The RT-2PM Topol (Russian: РТ-2ПМ Тополь ("Poplar"); NATO reporting name SS-25 Sickle; GRAU designation: 15Ж58 ("15Zh58"); other designations: RS-12M Topol)[1] is a mobile intercontinental ballistic missile designed in the Soviet Union and in service with Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces.


The three stage solid propellant RT-2PM Topol became the first Soviet mobile ICBM to be successfully deployed. It was deployed after two decades of unsuccessful attempts by different design bureaus to create a reliable mobile launch system. It emerged from the same line of development as mobile missiles such as the RT-21 Temp 2S and the RSD-10 Pioneer, and was deployed as a replacement for the widely deployed UR-100. The United States considered developing their own road-mobile ICBM called the Midgetman, but the program was canceled with the end of the Cold War. Development of the RT-2PM was approved on July 19, 1977 and carried out by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology headed by A. D. Nadiradze. Flight tests were conducted on the Plesetsk test site from February through December 1985. The main problem that had to be overcome during this period was the development of battle management system. After the first test series was successfully conducted in April 1985, with the first regiment with Topol missiles put on alert in July 1985. Throughout this time work continued on improving the battle management system. The test missile firings were finally completed in December 1987. The first regiment of "Topol" missiles employing a modernized mobile command center (in the area of Irkutsk) were put on alert on May 27, 1988.


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The RT-2PM ICBM was designed to be road mobile and is mounted on a heavy truck (MAZ-7310 or MAZ-7917). Development began in 1977, flight tests of the missile were conducted between 1983 and 1987. After the first series of tests, the first missiles became operational in 1985. Full deployment of 360 missiles was achieved in 1996, and in 2005 300 remained on duty. As of January 2008 the figure had dropped to 201 active missiles. In December 2008 Russian rocket forces had 189 RT-2PM operational missiles.[2] With 276 ICBMs of other types (including 126 UR-100Ns, 75 R-36 missiles and 75 Topol-M missiles), that gives Russia an ICBM arsenal of 465 missiles – larger than United States ICBM arsenal of 450 LGM-30 Minuteman missiles.

The RT-2 is a road mobile 3-stage, single warhead ICBM. Its 29.5 meter length and 1.7 meter diameter are approximately the same size and shape as the U.S. Minuteman ICBM. It has a throw-weight of 1000 kg and carries a single warhead with a yield of 800 kt[3] and accuracy (CEP) of 200m. Its road mobile capability gave the RT-2PM Topol an extremely high probability of survival. It can fire from field deployment sites or through sliding roof garage bases. The RT-2PM Topol joined operational Soviet SRF regiments in 1985. A total area of approximately 190,000 square kilometers could be required to deploy a force consisting of 500 road-mobile Topol ICBMs. Mobile units require a much higher number of personnel for maintenance and operation than fixed systems. Consequently, the RT-2PM Topol was significantly more costly to maintain and operate than silo launched systems.

All three stages are made of composite materials. During first stage operation the flight control is implemented through four aerodynamic and four jet vanes. Four similar trellised aerodynamic surfaces serve for stabilization. During the second and third stage of flight gas is injected into the diverging part of the nozzle for flight control.

Launch-Assisting Support vehicle of Topol at the Saint-Petersburg Artillery Museum

Troposphere Relay Station vehicle of Topol at the Saint-Petersburg Artillery Museum

The missile is deployed in a Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) canister mounted on cross-country 7-axle chassis on a mobile launch vehicle. The chassis incorporates jacks, gas and hydraulic drives and cylinders, with a power of several hundred tons, for jacking and leveling of the launcher, speeding up (combat) and slowing down (maintaining) elevation of the container with the missile in the vertical position. The TEL is accompanied by a Mobile command post, carrying support facilities mounted on cross-country 4-axle chassis with unified vans. The complex is equipped with an onboard inertial navigation system which gives the TEL group the capability to conduct the launch independently from its field deployment sites. This topo-geodesic support and navigation subsystem, created by the "Signal" Research Institute, provides a quick and highly precise tie-in of the launcher in a field position and enables its crew to carry out missile launches from any combat patrol route point. The launch can also be carried out at regimental bases from the aforementioned garrison garage.

Operational history

RT-2PM missile scheme

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At the time of the signing of the START I Treaty in 1991 the Soviet Union had deployed some 288 Topol missiles. Deployment continued, and at the end of 1996 a total of 360 Topol missiles were deployed.

The Topol missile was deployed at previously developed deployment sites. After the INF Treaty was signed in 1987 several SS-20 deployment sites were adapted to launch the Topol missiles. The United States expressed specific concerns during the INF treaty negotiations. When the SS-25 missile system was deployed in the field, with its missile inside the canister and mounted on the launcher, the US contended that the canister might conceal an RSD-10 Pioneer missile. This was of concern because unlike the single warhead of the RT-2PM Topol, the RSD-10 carried up to 3 warheads. A resolution was reached after the Soviet Union agreed to allow inspection parties to use radiation detection systems to measure fast neutron intensity flux emanating from the launch canister. A launch canister with a missile inside containing a single warhead, such as the RT-2PM Topol, emitted a different pattern of fast neutrons than did one with a missile having three warheads, such as the RSD-10.

Provisions of the SALT II agreement prohibited the deployment of more than one new missile (which became RT-23UTTh), it was officially declared by the Soviet Union that the RT-2PM Topol was developed to upgrade the silo based RT-2. The US government disputed this view, contending that the missile was clearly more than 5% larger and had twice the throw-weight as the RT-2 and therefore constituted a new missile system. Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov, Soviet Chief of General Staff cancelled the September 1, 1983 test flight of the RT-2PM Topol which was to be launched from Plesetsk (the launch site in northwest Russia used for test firing of solid fuel propellant ICBMs)- 24 minutes later to land in the Klyuchi target area on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The night of the scheduled launch was the night that Korean Air Lines Flight 007 intruded Soviet airspace over Kamchatka.

An RT-2PM Topol with two MIRVs may have been tested in 1991, and the missile was tested at least once with four MIRV warheads, but there has apparently been no further development of a multiple warhead version. This became a point of contention during the conclusion of the 1991 START negotiations, at which time the US pressed for a definition of "downloading" (removing warheads from missiles) that would complicate any Soviet attempt suddenly to deploy multiple warheads on the RT-2PM Topol.

Russia plans to reequip approximately 400 silos where obsolete UR-100, RT-2 and MR-UR-100 missiles are located. Under the START II Treaty, which never had and most likely will never have a binding effect, Russia would have been able to place 90 single-warhead solid fuel missiles in reequipped R-36 silos. In order to guard against a break-out scenario involving the rapid reconversion of R-36 silos on-site inspection became a very important aspect of START II verification.

Post-Soviet period

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The breakup of the Soviet Union had a significant impact on the Topol program. The dispersed manufacturing of ICBM components seriously complicated researching and building new missile systems. For example, the Minsk Wheeled Truck-Tractor Manufacturing Plant in Belarus manufactured the missiles' transporter launchers, and some 90% of the components of the guidance system were manufactured in Ukraine.

In Belarus, as of December 1995, 63 RT-2PM Topol ICBMs originally deployed there had been returned to Russia. As of December 1995, Belarus had two operational mobile RT-2PM Topol regiments remaining on its territory, with a total of 18 nuclear warheads. In July 1992, Belarus signed an agreement with Russia placing the regiments under exclusive Russian control. In September 1993, Moscow and Minsk signed an agreement requiring the return of these nuclear missiles and all related missile support equipment to Russia by the end of 1996. A total of 81 RT-2PM Topol ICBMs and associated warheads were returned to Russia from Belarus.

By the late 1990s the lack of resources and qualified personnel forced the Strategic Rocket Forces to cut back operations considerably, with no more than one or two regiments of the mobile RT-2PM Topol missiles dispersed in the field. The remaining 40 or so regiments, each with nine single-warhead missiles, remain in garrison.

In February 2001, in a special test of operational readiness, the Strategic Rocket Forces successfully launched a silo-based Topol ICBM at a target in the Kura Test Range in Kamchatka. The Topol missile, the oldest of its type still in the Russian arsenal, was said to have performed flawlessly despite having outlived by 150 percent its operational period of service.

Topol TEL in Military Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signal Corps

Recent history

On October 18, 2007, another successful test launch was conducted. One Topol from a mobile launcher at Plesetsk test site reached its target on Kamchatka. As the Strategic Rocket Forces representative reported, it allowed for the extension of Topol's service life to 21 years.[4]

Another test of the RT-2PM Topol was carried out on Thursday, August 28, 2008. The launch was said to be specially tasked to test the missile's capability to avoid ground-based detection systems.[5] The test included the use of a new warhead, designed to penetrate missile defense systems.[6]

Another test was conducted on October 12, 2008 when a Topol was launched from the Plesetsk test site in northern Russia. The missile, with a dummy warhead, hit a target at the Kura Test Range on the Kamchatka Peninsula. Russian president Dmitry Medvedev observed the test on site.[7]

Tests conducted on 28 October 2011 and 3 November 2011, confirmed service life extension to 23 years (to 2019).[8][9] More tests for extension to 25 years were announced, and on October 30, 2012, an RS-12M Topol Intercontinental Ballistic Missile was launched from the Plesetsk site in northern Russia [10]

The Topol will eventually be replaced by the road-mobile version of the Topol-M missile.


  • Start-1 – a commercial space launch vehicle derived from the missile.


The Strategic Rocket Forces are the only operator of the Topol. Current Strategic Rocket Forces Order of Battle lists the following sites with Topol missiles:[2]

  • 27th Guards Missile Army (HQ: Vladimir)
    • 7th Guards Missile Division at Vypolzovo with 18 Topol
    • 14th Missile Division at Yoshkar-Ola with 27 Topol
    • 54th Guards Missile Division at Teykovo with 9 Topol
  • 31st Missile Army (HQ: Rostoshi)
    • 42nd Missile Division at Nizhniy Tagil with 36 Topol
  • 33rd Guards Missile Army (HQ: Omsk)
    • 35th Missile Division at Barnaul with 36 Topol
    • 39th Guards Missile Division at Novosibirsk with 36 Topol
    • 51st Guards Missile Division at Irkutsk with 27 Topol

See also


  • Podvig, Pavel. (2001) Russian Strategic Nuclear Force. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

External links

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