RT-23 Molodets

Last updated
RT-23 ICBM complex in Saint Petersburg museum.jpg
BZhRK three-car autonomous launching module
Place of origin USSR
Service history
In service1987–2005 [1]
Production history
Manufacturer Yuzhnoye Design Bureau
Mass104,500 kg (230,400 lb)
Length23.40 m (76.8 ft)
Diameter2.41 m (7 ft 11 in)
Warhead10 × 550 kt MIRVs [2]

EngineFirst stage: 15D305, [3]
Second stage: 15D339 [3]
15D305: 3,040 kN, [4]
15D339: 1,470 kN [5]
Propellant Solid fuel
10,000–11,000 km (6,200–6,800 mi) [2]
Inertial, autonomous
Accuracy150-500 m [2]
Railcar TEL or silo

The RT-23 Molodets (Russian : РТ-23 УТТХ [6] «Мо́лодец», lit. "brave man" or "fine fellow"; NATO reporting name: SS-24 Scalpel) was a cold-launched, three-stage, solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile developed and produced before 1991 by the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau in Dnipro, Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union). [7] It came in silo- and rail-based variants, and was armed with 10 MIRV warheads (GRAU index: 15Ф444) [8] of 550 kt yield. [2] All missiles were decommissioned by 2005 in accordance with the START II. [1]



The overhead line short-circuiting and diverting mechanism Boevoi zheleznodorozhnyi raketnyi kompleks BZhRK 15P961 Molodets (21).jpg
The overhead line short-circuiting and diverting mechanism
Railcar outriggers, deployed before launch Boevoi zheleznodorozhnyi raketnyi kompleks BZhRK 15P961 Molodets (12).jpg
Railcar outriggers, deployed before launch

The missile and rail-based missile complex - or BZhRK (Russian : БЖРК, Боевой Железнодорожный Ракетный Комплекс, lit. "Combat Rail-based Missile Complex") - were developed by the brothers Vladimir and Alexei Utkin as chief engineers in Yuzhnoye Design Bureau and Design Bureau for Special Machine-Building respectively. [9] It was the culmination of a major Soviet effort to develop a solid-propellant ICBM with multiple basing modes which was initiated in 1969. [2] As addition to the silo- and rail-based versions, a road-mobile version was considered but eventually rejected. [2] The new missile was to replace the older liquid-fueled UR-100N which were entirely silo-based. [2] Its United States counterpart was the Peacekeeper Rail Garrison, which was never deployed. [10]

The missile was tested through the 1980s and was deployed in 1987. [2] A typical BZhRK consisted of three modified M62-class locomotives (designated DM62; were not different in appearance) [11] and seventeen railcars: a camouflaged tank with diesel fuel and lubricants reserve, three 3-car autonomous launching modules (a launch support systems car, a car with an erectable SS-24 launcher and a launcher command post car), a regiment command post car, a communications systems car, a main diesel generator car, a provision storage car with refrigerators and water tanks, a dining car and two separate living compartment cars for officers and enlisted personnel. All the railcars were camouflaged as either refrigerated vans or passenger cars. [12] [8] [13] [14] The lead locomotive was driven by three Railway Troops officers with good knowledge of a patrolling route, while the two others were operated by enlisted personnel. [14] The train was able to cruise at speed of 80–120 km/h (50–75 mph) [8] [12] and launch the missiles at any point of the route [2] on any Soviet rail line, which was made possible by implementation of the special mechanism for short-circuiting and diverting the overhead line (Russian : ЗОКС). [8] [15] Shortly after ejection by the powder pressure accumulator, at a height of 20–30 m, the missile would incline itself, so that the first-stage exhaust would not damage or overturn the railcar launcher, and then ignite the first-stage engine. [8] The rail-based missile incorporated an inflatable nose cone as a means of length reduction for accommodation in a refrigerator car, [15] while the silo-based variant was equipped with a more robust folding nose cone, since it was expected to be operated in a much harsher pre-emptive nuclear strike environment. [2] [16] [17] In order to prevent damage to the railroad tracks caused by high weight of the launching car with a missile (>200 tons), [8] the special three-car coupling system was developed for the launching modules, allowing for even weight distribution between neighboring cars. [15] [9] The missile train was able to function autonomously for up to 28 days. [9]

In order to evaluate effects of a nearby nuclear explosion on the missile complex, on 27 February 1991, in Plesetsk, the "Sdvig" (Russian : Сдвиг, lit. "Shift") experiment was conducted, upon which a pile of 100,000 TM-57 anti-tank mines was detonated with the yield of 1,000 tons of TNT at a distance of 850 and 450 meters from the two separate groups of railcar launching and command modules. The experiment showed that, despite moderate damage to the railcars, the complexes were still able to conduct simulated missile launches (computer system of one of them required a reboot). The level of acoustic pressure in the command modules, however, "exceeded 150 dB" and "would have resulted in a 20-minutes hearing loss" for the personnel. [18] [19] Prior to that, in 1988, at Semipalatinsk Test Site, the rail-based complex took part in the "Siyanie" (Russian : Сияние, lit. "Shining") and "Groza" (Russian : Гроза, lit. "Thunderstorm") experiments, meant to evaluate its EMP and lightning protection effectiveness. [8]

According to US Defense Department, as of September 1991, production of the RT-23 had ended with approximately 90 missiles deployed. [2] Its production facilities were located in Ukraine, and after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the production of the missile was halted. [2] The 46 silo-based missiles located in Ukraine were deactivated by mid-1996 and put into storage awaiting a decision on a feasible disposal method, while their warheads were sent to Russia for dismantlement. [2] In 1998–2001, all Ukrainian RT-23 missiles were dismantled and 45 out of 46 RT-23 silos exploded, with one of them left intact for exhibition purposes. [20] A total of 46 missiles remained in service by April 1997 with the Strategic Missile Forces (10 silo- and 36 rail-based). [2] The remaining 10 silo-based missiles in Russia were deactivated and sent for dismantlement in 2001, and their silos were modified for Topol-M complexes. [20] After 2000, the rail-based missiles were also gradually withdrawn from service, with the remaining 15 decommissioned in August 2005. In that same year, Nikolay Solovtsov, then commander of the Strategic Missile Forces, officially announced retirement of the RT-23 rail-based complex. [1] The last RT-23 ICBM in Russia was eliminated in April 2008. [21]

Its successor, BZhRK Barguzin, was reportedly under development for the Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN), but in 2017 it was announced the project had been frozen due to insufficient funding. [22] [23]


SS-24 versions comparison [2]
PL-04 (R&D index)Mod 0Mod 2Mod 1
ServiceRT-23RT-23 UTTKh
GRAU 15Zh4415Zh5215Zh6015Zh61
Design BureauSKB-586, NPO Yuzhynoy Acad. V. F. Utkin
Approved23 July 19761 June 19799 August 19839 August 1983
Years of R&DJanuary 1969 – March 1977November 1982 – 19871983–19891983–1989
First Flight Test26 October 1982 Failure, 12/1982 SuccessApril 198431 July 198627 February 1985
IOCCanceled19 August 198812/198812/1987
Deployment DateCanceledNovember 198728 November 198928 November 1989
Type of WarheadMIRV
Payload (t)4.05
Total length (m)23.323.4–23.818.8–23.423.3
Total length w/o warhead (m)18.8, 19191919
Missile Diameter (m)2.4
Launch Mass (t)104.5
Operating Range (km)10,00010,000–11,00010,100-11,00010,100–10,450
CEP (m)500150–250
Basing ModeSiloSiloRailroad

Former оperators

Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union and Flag of Russia.svg  Russia
The Strategic Missile Troops were the only operators of the RT-23 until the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Silo-based with 46th Rocket Division in Pervomaisk and 60th Rocket Division in Tatischevo. [2]
Rail-based with 10th Rocket Division in Kostroma region, 52nd Rocket Division in Zvyozdny, Perm region, and 36th Rocket Division in Kedrovy, Krasnoyarsk region. [15]
Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine
The Armed Forces of Ukraine inherited 46 silo-based RT-23 missiles stationed in Pervomaisk upon independence from the Soviet Union. [2]

See also

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