From J. Michael Cole, the Diplomat: With the U.S. and Russia deadlocked over a plan by NATO to deploy a European missile defense system, Moscow showed the world what it meant by “technical response” last week by holding what has been described as the most comprehensive test of its strategic nuclear arsenal since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
According to Russian media, President Vladimir Putin, whom critics have accused of overplaying the nuclear threat from the West to boost his political fortunes domestically, oversaw the entire series of tests, which were conducted mostly on Oct. 19. All three components of Moscow’s nuclear “triad” — strategic bombers, land and sea-launched long-range nuclear missiles — as well as communications and command-and-control systems featuring “new algorithms,” were tested.
The tests included the launch of an RS-12M Topol Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) from Plesetsk in northern Russia — the world’s first operational ICBM base, built in the 1950s — and an R-29R from a submerged submarine operating in the Sea of Okhotsk. Both missiles traveled a distance of more than 6,000km before hitting their targets. Meanwhile, two long-range bombers, a Tupolev Tu-95 “Bear” and a Tu-160 “Blackjack,” each fired two nuclear-capable cruise missiles at a test range in Komi, northwestern Russia. All the missiles involved were fitted with dummy warheads.
In a statement, the Kremlin said the strategic nuclear forces exercise was “conducted on such a scale for the first time in the modern history of Russia.”
According to Russian media reports in January, the Russian military is scheduled to conduct 11 ICBM trials in 2012, including seven launches for experimental programs and four to extend the service life of existing missiles “with a view to piercing missile defense systems.” Among the new missiles tested is the road-mobile multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle-ed, or MIRVed, Yars RS-24 ICBM, which entered service in summer 2011. Russia also successfully tested a new medium-weight ICBM in May that is reportedly capable of defeating anti-missile defense systems, which Moscow said was directly aimed at the NATO-led missile defense initiative. (photo: AFP)