Russia to Decommission Topol ICBMs in 2024, Convert to Satellite Launchers

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The Russian strategic missile force has decided to decommission the Topol intercontinental ballistic missiles from military service in 2024 and intends to employ them in civilian applications.

“It is planned to remove the latest Topol intercontinental ballistic missile from service in the strategic missile forces in 2024. Topol missiles out of working service are being replaced by Yars intercontinental ballistic missile with MIRVed (multiple independently targetable vehicle) warheads,” a source in the defense sector was quoted as saying by TASS on Thursday.

In November of last year, Yuri Solomonov, the Chief Designer of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology, said that some of the Topol ICBMs being decommissioned will be repurposed as Start-1 carrier rockets. “A decision on this issue is planned to be made in 2020-2021,” he said. Solomonov added everything would depend on two programs for creating two clusters of small-size satellites, for which Start-1 rockets are convenient launch vehicles.

There are upto 360 Topol launching systems in ten divisions of the Russian strategic missile forces in 1999.

The Start-1 is a light-class solid-propellant carrier rocket based on the Topol ICBM. With a lift-off weight of 47 tonnes, it can deliver a payload of over 500 kg to a low Earth orbit. In 1993-2006, Russia conducted seven Start rocket launches from the spaceports of Plesetsk and Svobodny (currently Vostochny).

The RS-24 Yars is reported to be designed similarly to Russia’s SS-27 (Topol M) ICBM and the Bulava (SS-NX-32) SLBM. The missile is estimated to be 22.5 meters in length and 2 meters in diameter. It is believed to be fitted with a newer reentry vehicle (RV) design that will allow the RV’s to maneuver in space and during re-entry. The total launch weight of the RS-24 is assessed to be 49,000 kg and is expected to have a minimum range of 2,000 km and a maximum of 10,500 km.