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Russia to deploy new nuke-capable ICBMs by fall

A Russian RS-28 Sarmat (Satan II) intercontinental ballistic missile at the Plesetsk cosmodrome. (Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Released)
April 26, 2022

Russian forces are set to begin receiving their newest nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) before the fall of this year, according to Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s Roscosmos Space Agency.

In a Saturday interview with the Russian state-run Rossiya 24 television channel, Rogozin said Russia expects to form its first regiment around its new RS-28 Sarmat missiles before the fall. According to the state-run TASS news agency, Rogozin said, “We plan to do it before this fall – to form the first regiment using serial missiles delivered by our enterprises.”

Rogozin made the claim just days after Russia completed a test launch of the missile, projecting a relatively short timeline for the Russian forces to bring the weapon into its arsenal.

According to the Washington D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Sarmat missile has an estimated range of between 6,200 and 11,100 miles. The Sarmat, which has been nicknamed the “Satan II” missile, can reportedly carry multiple nuclear warheads at a time, including up to 10 large warheads, or 16 smaller ones, or a combination of warheads and countermeasures, or hypersonic boost-glide vehicles. In 2016, the Russian military news station TV Zvezda reported the Sarmat missile could carry enough warheads to destroy an area the size of Texas or France.

After the Wednesday test launch, the Russian military said its 62nd Red Banner Rocket Division “Uzhur missile formation” in Russia’s southern Krasnoyarsk Territory was already preparing to receive the new weapon. Rogozin appeared to confirm those earlier comments by the Russian military and said the Sarmat missiles would replace the Krasnoyarsk missile forces’ R-36 Voevoda missiles, also known as Satan I missiles.

Rogozin boasted of the Sarmat missile’s improvements over the older Voevoda missile.

“The Sarmat missile, compared to the Voevoda (Satan) missile, is capable of hitting targets at virtually unlimited ranges,” Rogozin told TASS.

Rogozin also boasted of the Sarmat’s superiority over U.S. Minuteman III ICBMs.

“This is a missile that is much more powerful than other strategic weapons, including the Minuteman-III missile, which is in service with the United States, both in terms of global reach and the power of warheads that can be delivered to the territory of an aggressor,” he said.

Rogozin said the Sarmat is invulnerable to the missile defense systems currently employed by the U.S. and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, as well as future planned missile defenses.

“This is a huge success for our designers and engineers,” Rogozin said. “We are very proud.”

Rogozin’s comments about the new Sarmat missiles come as Russia has increasingly threatened other countries with nuclear weapons. In recent weeks, Russian officials said they would deploy nuclear weapons near Finland and Sweden if they joined NATO.

Last month, a Russian fighter jet fired a Kinzhal hypersonic missile at a Ukrainian weapons depot. Though that particular missile only carried a conventional warhead, the Kinzhal missile can also carry a nuclear warhead.

Last month, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier told the House Armed Services Committee that as Russia’s combat losses in Ukraine mount, and as it faces increased economic isolation from the rest of the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin may increasingly turn to nuclear threats to back up his demands.