R-36M / RS-20 (SS-18 Mod. 1-4 SATAN) gallery

(RS-20B/SS-18 SATAN mod 4 image). At the end of the 1960s, the KB Yuzhnoe design bureau began studies to replace the R-36 (SS-9 Scarp) ICBM missiles with new ones with greater destructive capacity and better penetration capabilities in American defenses, installing Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRV). To achieve this objective, the new missile had to be equipped with a new flight control that would direct a new upper stage equipped with several warheads towards different targets. In September 1969 the Soviet Politburo approved the development of a new missile designated “R-36M” (15A14), known in the West as “SS-18 Satan“.
The new missile was going to have improved capabilities such as a missile installed in a sealed launch container or canister (on the image), a new launch system, a “cold launch” system from a protected silo, a high-accuracy digital flight control system, dummy warheads (decoys) to overcome enemy defenses and multiple warheads with individual guidance capable of withstanding the conditions of a nuclear attack. In this way, it was expected that the missile would multiply the chances of reaching its target by 3, that it would improve its life span by 1.5 times or that its launch readiness would be 4 times better than that of the previous R-36 (NATO codename SS-9 Scarp).
(RS-20B/SS-18 SATAN mod 4 image). The R-36M was a two-stage missile capable of carrying different warheads, from a single large one with a yield of between 18 and 25 Mt to a warhead loaded with up to 10 MIRVs with a yield of between 750 Kt to 1 Mt each. The propulsion of the missile was based on two different stages, the first consisting of a set of four RD-263 single-chambered engines, (collectively known as RD-264), which developed a total of about 424,800 kg of thrust at sea level or 461,200 kg of thrust in vacuum. The second stage consists of a single-chambered RD-263 sustainer engine with a modified nozzle and a four-chambered steering/control engine that developes 90,000 kg of thrust in vacuum. This propulsion system used a bipropellant liquid formed by UDMH (asymmetrical dimethylhydrazine) as fuel and nitrogen tetroxide as oxidant. Both stages are installed in the single diameter main body of the missile so they lack individual intertanks and tail sections. This has made it possible to optimize the internal volume of the main body and reduce the total weight of the missile.
The warhead section of the SS-18 Satan is designated 15F143U and has its own propulsion unit. It can carry 3 different types of reentry vehicles (RVs), including a multi-warhead type that carries up to 10 MIRVs in two different configurations. Each RV has its own solid-propellant engine of the type 15D161 or 15D221. The missile also has a single warhead (15F141 type) with a yield of between 18 and 25 Mt, the most destructive of the entire Russian nuclear arsenal. All warhead sections carry several dummy warheads or decoys equipped with their own solid-propellant motors. The missiles were encapsulated in a canister made of reinforced fiberglass that extended their operational life and facilitated their transportation and handling. The guidance of the missile was of the autonomous inertial type and was directed by an onboard digital computer that controlled the automatic preparation during pre-launch, retargeting, remote monitoring of the missile parameters and the launch and control of the missile during flight according to the pre-established plans.
All R-36M missiles are launched from modified and reinforced 15P714 type silos belonging to the previous R-36 (SS-9 Scarp) missiles. The new silos were designated as “15P718 type” and have a special suspension system to accommodate the launch canisters, although the problems generated by exhaust gases in the silos during launch led to the development of a new launch system called “cold launch”. The “cold launch” system allowed the missile to be ejected from the silo before the ignition of the missile’s main engines. To do this, a Powder Pressure Generator (PAD) was installed at the bottom of the silo. This device allows the 210-tonne missile to be ejected at a height of 20 meters before the engines start, in such a way that the exhaust gases are expelled directly into the air. Thanks to this system, it is not necessary to build a complex and expensive exhaust deflection system inside the silo. The missile can be launched 62 seconds after being ordered to fire.
The engines began testing in April 1970 and were certified for flight in September 1972. Testing of the “cold launch” system began in January 1970 and in March 1972 the system was accepted. The first test launch of the R-36M was carried out in February 1973, and was followed by another 42 test launches, 36 of which were successful and 7 of which were unsuccessful. Finally, on December 30, 1975, the Central Committee of the Communist Party (CPSU) ordered the operational deployment of the R-36M/RS-20A Mod 1 missile (NATO codename SS-18 Satan). Tests subsequently continued with the “light” 15B86 warhead, adopted for service in 1978, and with the 15F678 self-guided warhead, which was ultimately not accepted.
This family of missiles had a range between 10,200 and 16,000 km, measured 33.6 to 34.3 meters long by 3.0 meters in diameter and weighed between 209.2 and 211.1 tons, of which about 189 were liquid fuel. They could carry a payload of 7.2 to 8.8 tons consisting of 1 to 10 warheads with a total yield of between 4.0 to 25 Megatons. From 1975 to 1983, a total of 308 silo launched missiles of the variants R-36M (SS-18 Mod 1), R-36M (SS-18 Mod 2), R-36MUTTKh (SS-18 Mod 3) and R-36MUTTKh (SS -18 Mod 4) entered service. At full deployment, the 308 R-36M ICBM missiles were deployed at Aleysk (30 missiles), Dombarosvki (64 missiles), Kartaly (46 missiles), and Uzhur (64 missiles) in Russia. The rest were deployed to Derzhavinsk (52 missiles) and Zhangiz-Tobe (52 missiles) in Kazakhstan. In this period an increasing number of warheads/MIRVs were also added, reaching a maximum of 3,080.
In 1975 the first variant, known as R-36M/RS-20A (SS-18 Mod 1) (on the image), entered service. Those missiles had a range of 11,200 km and a single high yield (heavy) 15F141 warhead of 20 Mt. The first 10 units were deployed in 1975, reaching 36 in 1976. This figure remained until 1979 when they were replaced by the new R-36MUTTKh (SS-18 Mod 3) variant.
In 1977 the second variant, known as R-36M/RS-20A1 (SS-18 Mod 2) (on the image), entered service. This missile had a single “light” warhead of 8 Mt. Its range was about 16,000 km. In 1977, 40 units were deployed, which rose to 162 in 1981. In 1982 their number had been reduced to 92, and in 1983 they were all replaced by the R-36MUTTKh/RS-20B (SS-18 Mod 4) variant due to the problems generated by the post-boost vehicle of the nose cone.
In November 1979, deployment of the third variant, known as R-36MUTTKh/RS-20A2 (SS-18 Mod 3), began. This missile could carry two different types of nose cones (warheads). One had a warhead composed of 4 to 8 MIRVs of 400 Kt each. The second warhead was composed of 10 MIRVs of 400 Kt each. The range was about 10,500 km. Initially, 26 units were deployed, replacing the R-36M/RS-20A (SS-18 Mod 1) missiles of the first variant. In 1982, only 16 missiles were in service, which were retired in 1983.
In December 1979 the fourth variant, known as R-36MUTTKh/RS-20B (SS-18 Mod 4), entered service. This missile carried a new warhead equipped with 10 MIRVs of 550 Kt each. Its range was 11,000 km and according to Western intelligence, this missile had been designed to attack American ICBM missile silos. Also according to these same sources, it was claimed that the missile could carry up to 14 MIRVs, a fact categorically denied by Russia, which has always stated that there were only 10 independent MIRVs. In 1979 the first 50 units were deployed, which increased to 308 in 1983. This figure remained until 1988 when they began to be replaced by the newer R-36M2/RS-20V Voevoda (SS-18 Mod 5). There are currently none in service.

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