R-36M2 / RS-20V (SS-18 Mod. 5-6 SATAN) gallery

In June 1979, studies began for the manufacture of a new fourth-generation ICBM missile based on the R-36M (SS-18) missile. In June 1982, the design of a new missile called R-36M2 Voevoda was presented. The two new variants of the missile represented a huge technological leap and presented a large number of improvements compared to the 4 previous variants of the R-36M family. The first variant, designated R-36M2 Voevoda/RS-20V (SS-18 Mod 5), equipped a 8.73 tons 15F173 type warhead composed by 10 MIRVs with a blast yield of 550 to 750 Kilotons each. The second variant, designated R-36M2 Voevoda/RS-20V (SS-18 Mod 6) (on the image), carried a single 8.47 tons 15F175 type “light” warhead with a yield of 8.3 Mt (according to Russian sources) or 20 Mt (according to Western sources). It seems that 15F175 warhead was designed to explode at high altitude and create an electromagnetic pulse capable of destroying electronic and communications systems.
(RS-20V/SS-18 mod 6 image). The main requirements taken into account when designing the new missiles were aimed at surpassing the performance of the R-36M missile, among others: reducing the combat preparation time by 2 times, using higher power charges, increase the precision, longer useful life of the missile, increase the survivability of silos and command posts, and ensure the resistance of the missile and its combat equipment to the effects of terrestrial and high-altitude nuclear explosions. Thanks to all the improvements applied, it is estimated that the areas sensitive to nuclear damage of this missile are 20 times smaller than those of the R-36M missile, it is also 100 times more resistant to Gamma radiation and 10 times more resistant to X-Rays radiation. If the silo does not receive a direct hit from an enemy nuclear weapon, this would only delay the launch of the missile by about 3 minutes.
(RS-20V/SS-18 mod 6 image). Special emphasis was placed on the resistance of the missile, so its outer coating was reinforced and its control systems were adapted to cross an area affected by a nuclear explosion during launch, without the missile being disabled. To achieve this, a special coating with a high content of rare earths has been used, the internal conduits and wiring of the missile have been shielded and reinforced. In addittion, a special flight program has been introduced, allowing the missile to pass through the cloud produced by a terrestrial nuclear explosion. The missile can be launched in adverse weather conditions at an ambient temperature of -50 to +50ºC with a maximum wind of 90 km/h even after having received a nuclear attack.
(RS-20V/SS-18 mod 6 image). During the development of the R-36M2 missile, the launch silos of the type 15P714 and 15P718 were modified, reinforcing their protection against indirect nuclear attacks and against direct precision conventional weapons attacks. The new silos were designated 15P718M and can withstand nuclear shock waves of up to 100 atmospheres of pressure. In addition, all digital and cable communications systems, antennas, command posts, energy supply equipment, and in general, all missile base facilities were reinforced. Usually, each missile base had between 6 and 10 launch silos and it is believed that an active protection system called “Mozyr”, capable of shooting down missiles in low altitude flight, has recently been installed.
The new R-36M2/15A18M missile is made of AMg-6 aluminum-magnesium alloy and has no protruding parts to improve its resistance in nuclear contamination environments. It has two sequential stages and retains the same stage separation, warhead separation and launch equipment as the R-36M missiles. The missile is housed in a “TPK 15Ya184” launcher container made of high-resistance fiberglass that protects it against climatic adversities and maintains its humidity. Inside each container were included several Powder Pressure Generators (PAD) that acted sequentially and were responsible for launching the missile out of the silo, in the manner of a “mortar”, what is known as “cold launch”.
(RS-20V/SS-18 mod 6 image). The R-36M2 Voevoda ICBM missiles have an autonomous inertial guidance system controlled by a new on-board computer equipped with Russian M6M processors. The main control elements are redundant and a new heat dissipation system was created. It also has a protection system against Gamma radiation, (automatic stabilization control system), which turns off the control systems when crossing a nuclear contaminated area, to turn them on once this area has been passed and return to the desired trajectory. The guidance in azimuth is directed by an autonomous system that uses an automatic gyrocompass and a high-speed quantum optical gyrometer. This system does not need external data or GPS and is located inside the silo and once activated it maintains its aiming data even after receiving exposure in a radioactive environment, ensuring its firing at the predetermined target.
The propulsion system also received improvements and the power of the two-stage engines was increased by 12% compared to the R-36M missile. The first stage is composed of 4 autonomous RD-273 single-chamber liquid propulsion engines with afterburning that developes 468,600 kg of thrust at sea level or 504,900 kg of thrust in vacuum. The second stage (on the image) is made up of a main propulsion engine RD-0256 and the steering engine RD-0257 . The propulsion motor is located in the fuel tank in the style of SLBM missiles. The RD-0256 propulsion engine is single-chamber, with a turbocharger and closed-circuit afterburner. The RD-0257 steering engine is a four-chamber turbocharged engine with closed-loop afterburner that developes 85,300 kg of thrust in vacuum. Both stages used a bipropellant liquid formed by UDMH (asymmetrical dimethylhydrazine) as fuel and nitrogen tetroxide as oxidant.
The first stage (on the image) carries 150.2 tons of fuel, the second 37.6 tons and the third or dilution stage carries 2.1 tons, which adds up to 189.9 tons. This enormous amount of fuel allows the missile a range of 11,000 km with the 15F173 (MIRVs) warhead or 16,000 km with the 15F175 (single) warhead. Although it is common to apply to the R-36M2 Voevoda (SS-18 Mod 5 & 6) missiles a circular error probability (CEP) of 250 meters (according to Western sources) or 500 meters (according to Russian sources), on some specialized Russian websites, a CEP of 220 meters is given, a quite reasonable figure and very similar to Western estimates.
In addition to the two booster stages, the R-36M2 Voevoda missile carries a third “combat” stage 15С173 (on the image), also known as the “warhead disconnection stage” or “dilution stage”, (according to Russian definitions), which is essentially the warhead itself. Here are the control elements of the guidance system and the propulsion system, in addition, here is the device that is responsible for the sequential firing of the 10 MIRVs. This stage is connected to the second booster stage by explosive bolts and has an RD-869 four-chamber liquid propulsion rocket motor that developes 1,900 kg of thrust in vacuum. All these components are installed in an aerodynamic nose cone resistant to nuclear contamination environments.
In March 1986 the first test launch of the R-36M2 Voevoda (SS-18 Mod 5) missile (on the image) was carried out and in April 1988 the first launch of the R-36M2 Voevoda (SS-18 Mod 6) was carried out. Altogether, 26 test launches of the missile were carried out (without warhead), of which 20 were successful. Furthermore, from July 1987 to March 1988, 17 launches of the 15F173 (MIRV) warhead were carried out, of which 11 were successful. Also, from April 1988 to September 1989, 6 launches of the 15F175 warhead (single) were carried out, all of them successful. After the testing period, the R-36M2 Voevoda (SS-18 Mod 5) missiles were operationally deployed in December 1988 with the 13th Missile Division based in Yasny, Orenburg. The R-36M2 Voevoda (SS-18 Mod 6) missiles entered service in September 1991.
(RS-20V/SS-18 mod 6 image). In July 1991, the START-1 Treaty was signed between the United States and the USSR for the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms, which, together with the political and economic difficulties, led to no more missiles of this type being manufactured. In December 1991, when the Soviet Union dissolved, 82 missiles had already been deployed; 24 in Derzhavinsk, 30 in Dombarovsky and 28 in Uzhur. However, some sources believed that the last missiles were manufactured in 1992. Despite the low number of units deployed, these new missiles had a rapid reloading system in the silo, which would allow a second launch if an enemy attack was detected. This would mean that Russia could have launched two missiles against the United States while the American missiles were already in flight, with a consequent advantage for the Russian.
(RS-20V/SS-18 mod 6 image). In 1996 all missiles stationed in Kazakhstan were dismantled and taken to Russia, where some were destroyed under the START-1 Treaty. In 1998, 58 R-36M2 Voevoda missiles had been deployed, which have been progressively subjected to maintenance work to maintain their operability for more years than planned. First, a useful life of 15 years was contemplated, which was extended to 18, and which was again extended to 23 years. To guarantee its operability, some missiles have been fired during exercises carried out in 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2013. At the end of 2023, 46 R-36M2 Voevoda (SS-18 Mod 5) missiles (MIRV warhead) remained in service, which are being gradually replaced by the new R-28 Sarmat ICBM missile (NATO codename SS-X-29/SS-X -30 Satan II) as they have long exceeded their initially planned operational life. However, it is more than possible that its total replacement will take a few years to complete. The case of the R-36M2 Voevoda (SS-18 Mod 6) missile (single warhead) was different and the few existing units were retired in 2009.

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