RT-23 Molodets

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RT-23 ICBM complex in Saint Petersburg museum.jpg
Place of originUSSR
Service history
In service1987–2004
Production history
ManufacturerYuzhnoye Design Bureau
Mass104,500 kg (230,400 lb)
Length23.40 m (76.8 ft)
Diameter2.41 m (7 ft 11 in)
Warhead10 MIRV nuclear warheads of 550 kt

Engine3-stage solid-fuel
11,000 km (6,800 mi)
Inertial, autonomous
Silo or railway

The RT-23 (NATO reporting name SS-24 Scalpel) РТ-23 УТТХ «Мо́лодец» ("brave man" or "fine fellow") was a Soviet ICBM developed and produced before 1991 by the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau in Dnipro, Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union). It is cold-launched, and comes in silo– and railway-car–based variants. It is a three-stage missile that uses solid fuel and thrust vectoring for the first stage, with 10 MIRV warheads, each with a 550–kt yield. All missiles were decommissioned by 2004.


The missile was the culmination of a major Soviet effort to develop a medium solid-fueled missile with multiple basing modes: silo-based and rail-based versions were deployed, and a road-mobile version was considered but rejected. This made for a much more survivable ICBM, as the rail-based missiles could move around the rail network and thus be difficult to detect and track. The new missile was to replace the older liquid-fueled UR-100N missiles which were entirely silo-based. Its United States counterpart was the Peacekeeper Rail Garrison, which was never deployed.

Train-based ICBMs do offer some advantages over missiles in fixed silos, namely that the enemy can never be sure where they are—or, more accurately, where all of them are at any given moment. But as a 2014 RAND study[1] pointed out, rail and truck launchers have their drawbacks. Maintaining a missile on a train is more difficult than in a silo, while rail lines and roads can be blocked by snow, which tends to restrict railroad ICBMs to warmer climates. In addition, because there are only a limited number of rail lines and highways in an area, enemy surveillance can focus on a few areas. And, once located, mobile missiles are more vulnerable than ICBMs in hardened silos.[2]

The missile was tested through the 1980s and began to be deployed in 1987. Its production facilities were located in Ukraine. After the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Ukraine had no interest in producing ICBMs, so the production of the missile came to an end. A typical missile launch train was composed of three M62-class locomotives (a standard diesel electric locomotive of the period), followed by generating power car, command car, support car, and three missile launch vehicles, forming a nine-car set. The lead locomotive was driven by three officers, and the two immediately following engines were driven by two enlisted personnel each. The missile launcher has the shape of a refrigerator car, and the service cars are converted passenger carriages.

Just before the breakup of the USSR, 92 missiles were operational, 36 silo-based and 56 rail-based. The 36 silo-based missiles located in Ukraine were deactivated by mid-1996, disassembled and put into storage pending decision on a feasible disposal method, but the 56 missiles in Russia remained in service. The missile was to be banned under the provisions of START II, but that treaty was never ratified. The remaining ten silo-based missiles in Russia were deactivated around 2000. After 2000, the rail-based missiles were also gradually withdrawn from service, with the remaining 15 decommissioned in August 2005. The last SS-24 ICBM in Russia was eliminated in April 2008.

Its proposed successor, the RT-25, was a medium-range ballistic missile program that was never developed.[3]


PL-04 SS-24 SS-24V SS-24
NATO Scalpel Scalpel Scalpel Scalpel
Bilateral RS-22B RS-22A RS-22V
Service RT-23 RT-23 RT-23 UTTKh RT-23 UTTKh
GRAU 15Zh44 15Zh52 15Zh60 15Zh61
Design Bureau SKB-586, NPO Yuzhynoy Acad. V. F. Utkin SKB-586, NPO Yuzhnoye Acad. V. F. Utkin SKB-586, NPO Yuzhnoye Acad. V. F. Utkin SKB-586, NPO Yuzhnoye Acad. V. F. Utkin
Approved 23 July 1976 1 June 1979 9 August 1983 9 August 1983
Years of R&D January 1969 – March 1977 November 1982 – 1987 1983–1989 1983–1989
'Engineering and Testing'First Flight Test 26 October 1982 Failure, 12/1982 Success April 1984 31 July 1986 27 February 1985
IOC canceled 19 August 1988 12/1987
Deployment Date Canceled November 1987 28 November 1989 28 November 1989
Warheads 10 10 10 10
Payload (t) 4.05 4.05 4.05 4.05
Total length (m) 23.3 23.4–23.8 18.8–23.4 23.3
Total length w/o warhead (m) 18.8, 19 19 19 19
Missile Diameter (m) 2.4 2.4 2.4 2.4
Launch Mass (t) 104.5 104.5 104.5 104.5
Operating Range (km) 10,000 10,000–11,000 10,100-11,000 10,100–10,450
CEP (m) 500 500 150–250 150–250
Basing Mode Silo Railroad

Former оperators[edit]

 Soviet Union and  Russia
The Strategic Missile Troops were the only operators of the RT-23 until the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Silo-based at Pervomaysk and Tatischevo
Rail-based at Kostroma, Perm, and Gladkaya[4]
The Armed Forces of Ukraine inherited 60 RT-23 missiles upon independence from the Soviet Union, all were sent to Russia by 1994.[citation needed]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Caston, Lauren; Leonard, Robert S.; Mouton, Christopher A.; Ohlandt, Chad J. R.; Moore, Craig; Conley, Raymond E.; Buchan, Glenn (27 April 2019). "The Future of the U.S. Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Force". Rand.org. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  2. ^ Peck, Michael (26 February 2017). "Russia's Nuclear Missile 'Death Train' Arriving in 2019". The National Interest. Retrieved 27 April 2019.
  3. ^ Note: It did not receive a NATO reporting name, but did have an industry designation of 8K97.
  4. ^ Defense Intelligence Agency. SS-24 ICBM Weapon System. DST-1010S-073-93

External links[edit]