RUSSIAN SUB TESTS MIRV
Russia’s recent flight test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile involved multiple warheads, according to U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports of the test.
The Nov. 5 test of an SS-N-23 Skiff missile was carried out from a Delta IV nuclear missile submarine submerged in the Barents Sea.
State-controlled Russian media reported that the missile’s unspecified number of multiple warheads traveled some 3,100 miles across northern Russia to the Kura missile impact range on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
The SS-N-23 was declared in the 2011 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) as having four warheads. However, more modern versions of the SS-N-23 have been reported in the Russian press as carrying between eight and 12 warheads. If confirmed, the additional warheads would violate the treaty.
The flight test highlights Russia’s continuing development of strategic missile capabilities, including systems with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs.
By contrast, the Obama administration is reducing its multiple warhead missiles. The last of 450 land-based Minuteman III missiles was downsized from three warheads to one in June.
Russia conducted a flight test of a new land-based multiple warhead missile, the SS-27 Mod 2, in April that some experts say may have violated the New START prohibition on adding warheads to existing missiles.
The Pentagon’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review stated that all U.S. land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles will be “deMIRVed” from three warheads to one.
“This step will enhance the stability of the nuclear balance by reducing the incentives for either side to strike first,” the review stated.
U.S. Trident submarine-launched missiles, however, will continue to be armed with multiple warheads.
There are concerns, however, that Russia may be improving its new Bulava submarine-launched missiles with multiple maneuvering warheads — systems designed to defeat U.S. strategic missile defenses.
“There is a lot of talk in the Russian press about maneuvering warheads and 10 warhead packages for the Bulava,” said Mark Schneider, a former Pentagon strategic nuclear weapons specialist.
The Russian military enthusiast blog russianforces.org reported in August that the Makeyev Design Bureau, a nuclear missile center, is developing a maneuvering warhead for land- and sea-based missiles.
The Bulava was last tested in October and was equipped with six dummy warheads. It will be deployed on two new Borei-class missile submarines.