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Strategic Rocket Forces

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Strategic Rocket Forces
Ракетные войска стратегического назначения
Raketnye voyska strategicheskogo naznacheniya
Emblem of the Strategic Rocket Forces
Founded17 December 1959; 64 years ago (1959-12-17)
Branch Russian Armed Forces
TypeStrategic missile force
RoleStrategic missile deterrence
Size50,000 personnel (2020)[1]
HeadquartersVlasikha, 2.5 km northwest of Odintsovo, Moscow Oblast
Motto(s)"После нас - тишина" ("After us - silence")
MarchArtillery March (Марш Артиллеристов) by Tikhon Khrennikov
Anniversaries17 December
EquipmentBallistic missiles, cruise missiles
EngagementsCuban Missile Crisis
WebsiteOfficial website
Colonel General Sergei Karakayev [ru]
Marshal Igor Sergeyev
Middle Emblem
Sergei Karakayev (2015)

The Strategic Rocket Forces of the Russian Federation or the Strategic Missile Forces of the Russian Federation (RVSN RF; Russian: Ракетные войска стратегического назначения Российской Федерации (РВСН РФ), romanizedRaketnye voyska strategicheskogo naznacheniya Rossiyskoy Federatsii, lit.'Strategic Purpose Rocketry Troops of the Russian Federation') is a separate-troops branch of the Russian Armed Forces that controls Russia's land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). It was formerly part of the Soviet Armed Forces from 1959 to 1991.

The Strategic Rocket Forces was created on 17 December 1959 as part of the Soviet Armed Forces as the main force for operating all Soviet nuclear ground-based intercontinental, intermediate-range ballistic missile, and medium-range ballistic missile with ranges over 1,000 kilometers. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, assets of the Strategic Rocket Forces were in the territories of several new states in addition to Russia, with armed nuclear missile silos in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The three of them transferred their missiles to Russia for dismantling and they all joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Complementary strategic forces within Russia include the Russian Aerospace Forces' Long Range Aviation and the Russian Navy's ballistic missile submarines. Together the three bodies form Russia's nuclear triad.



The first Soviet rocket study unit was established in June 1946, by redesignating the 92nd Guards Mortar Regiment at Bad Berka in East Germany as the 22nd Brigade for Special Use of the Reserve of the Supreme High Command.[2] On October 18, 1947, the brigade conducted the first launch of the remanufactured former German A-4 ballistic missile, or R-1, from the Kapustin Yar Range.[3] In the early 1950s the 77th and 90th Brigades were formed to operate the R-1 (SS-1a 'Scunner'). The 54th and 56th Brigades were formed to conduct test launches of the R-2 (SS-2 'Sibling') at Kapustin Yar on June 1, 1952.

The 5th Scientific Research Proving Ground was established in 1955 in Kzyl-Orda Oblast at the town of Zarya later Leninsk, and finally in 1995 Baikonur.[4] Also established that year was the 43rd Independent Scientific Experimental Station (Klyuchi, Kamchatka Krai) as an outstation of the Baikonur test site. Two years later "Object Angara" was formed at Plesetsk, Arkhangelsk Oblast, which after another name change in 1959 eventually became the 53rd Scientific Research Proving Ground in 1963.[5]

From 1959 the Soviets introduced a number of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) into service, including the R-12 (SS-4 'Sandal'), the R-7 (SS-6 'Sapwood'), the R-16 (SS-7 'Saddler'), the R-9 (SS-8 'Sasin'), the R-26 (given the NATO reporting name SS-8 'Sasin' due to incorrect identification as the R-9), the R-36 (SS-9 'Scarp'), and the RT-21 (SS-16 'Sinner'), which was possibly never made fully operational.

By 1990 all early types of missiles had been retired from service. In 1990, the Strategic Missile Forces were officially established as a service branch of the Armed Forces under the direct control of the Defense Ministry. The date of its formal foundation, December 17, is celebrated as Strategic Missile Forces Day.

Two rocket armies were formed in 1960. The 43rd Rocket Army and the 50th Rocket Army were formed from the previous 43rd and 50th Air Armies of the Long Range Aviation.

During a test of the R-16 ICBM on October 24, 1960, the test missile exploded on the pad, killing the first commander of the SRF, Chief Marshal of Artillery Mitrofan Ivanovich Nedelin. This disaster, the details of which were concealed for decades, became known as the Nedelin catastrophe. He was succeeded by Marshal of the Soviet Union Kirill Moskalenko who was in turn quickly succeeded by Marshal Sergey Biryuzov.[6] Under Marshal Вiryuzov the SRF deployed missiles to Cuba in 1962 as part of Operation Anadyr. 36 R-12 intermediate range ballistic missiles were sent to Cuba, initiating the Cuban Missile Crisis. The 43rd Guards Missile Division of 43rd Rocket Army manned the missiles while in Cuba.[7]

Marshal Nikolai Krylov took over in March 1963 and served until February 1972. During this time French President Charles de Gaulle visited the Strategic Missile Forces in 1966. Together with NI Krylov, he visited a missile division in Novosibirsk, and then at the invitation of Leonid Brezhnev participated in a demonstration missile launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Kazakh SSR. Chief Marshal of Artillery Vladimir Fedorovich Tolubko commanded the SRF from April 12, 1972, to July 10, 1985. Tolubko emphasised raising the physical fitness standards within the SRF and in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Strategic Rocket Forces began to field the new UR-100 (SS-11 'Sego') and UR-100N (SS-19 'Stilleto') ICBMs beginning with the 43rd Rocket Army in the Ukrainian SSR, providing them with longer range and more accurate missiles. He was succeeded by General of the Army Yury Pavlovich Maksimov, who was in command from July 10, 1985, to August 19, 1992.

According to a 1980 TIME Magazine article citing analysts from RAND Corporation, Soviet non-Slavs were generally barred from joining the Strategic Missile Forces because of suspicions about the loyalty of ethnic minorities to the state.[8] Those who served in the Strategic Rocket Forces had better quality of living, food and also higher salaries than the ones paid to those serving in the Soviet Army. The majority of new recruits has, since its inception, consisted of mainly college and university graduates.

In 1989 the Strategic Missile Forces had over 1,400 ICBMs, 300 launch control centers, and twenty-eight missile bases.[9] The SMT operated RSD-10 (SS-20 'Saber') intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) and R-12 (SS-4 'Sandal') medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs). Two-thirds of the road-mobile Soviet RSD-10 force was based in the western Soviet Union and was aimed at Western Europe.

One-third of the force was located east of the Ural Mountains and was targeted primarily against China. Older R-12 missiles were deployed at fixed sites in the western Soviet Union. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in December 1987, called for the elimination of all 553 Soviet RSD-10 and R-12 missiles within three years. As of mid-1989, over 50% of RSD-10 and R-12 missiles had been eliminated.

By 1990 the Soviet Union had seven types of operational ICBMs. About 50% were heavy R-36M (SS-18 'Satan') and UR-100N (SS-19 'Stiletto') ICBMs, which carried 80% of the country's land-based ICBM warheads. By this time it was producing new mobile, and hence survivable ICBMs, the RT-23 (SS-24 'Scalpel') and RT-2PM (SS-25 'Sickle').[10]

In 1990, with the R-12 apparently fully retired, the IISS reported that there were 350 UR-100s (SS-11 'Sego,' Mod 2/3), 60 RT-2s (SS-13 'Savage') still in service in one missile field, 75 UR-100MRs (SS-17 'Spanker,' Mod 3, with 4 MIRV), 308 R-36Ms (mostly Mod 4 with 10 MIRV), 320 UR-100Ns (mostly Mod 3 with 6 MIRV), some 60 RT-23s (silo and rail-mobile), and some 225 RT-2PMs (mobile).[10]

Composition of the Strategic Missile Forces 1960–1991[11]

Formation Headquarters Location Year formed as Corps Year formed as Army Year disbanded[6] Divisions
27th Guards Rocket Army HQ Vladimir, Moscow Military District Sept. 1, 1959 1970 Still active 7th Guards Rocket Division, 28th Guards Rocket Division, (32 [12]), 54th Guards Rocket Division, 60th Rocket Division
31st Rocket Army Orenburg, Urals Military District Sept. 5, 1965 1970 Still active 8th, 13th, 14th, (41st Guards), 42nd, 50, 52nd, (55), 59
33rd Guards Rocket Army Omsk, Siberian Military District 1962 1970 Still active 23, (34), 35th, 36th Guards, 38, 39th Guards, 57, 62
43rd Rocket Army[13] Vinnitsa, Kiev Military District
1960 May 8, 1996 19 (Khmelnitsky), 37th Guards (Lutsk), 43 (Kremenchug), 44 (Kolomyia, Ivano-Frankovsk Oblast, disbanded March 1990; 46 (Pervomaisk, Mykolaiv Oblast)
50th Rocket Army Smolensk, Belorussian Military District
1960 June 30, 1990 1988:[6] 7th Guards, 24th Guards (Gvardeysk, Kaliningrad Oblast),[14] 31st Guards (former 83rd Guards Bryansko-Berlinskaya Aviation (Missile) Division, renumbered July 1, 1960), 32nd (Postavy, Vitebsk Oblast), 40th, 49th Guards (Lida, Grodno Region, 1963 to 1990), 58th (Karmelava, Lithuania)
53rd Rocket Army[15] Chita, Transbaikal Military District 1962 June 8, 1970 Sept. 16, 2002 1988:[6] 4th Rocket Division (Drovyanaya, Chita Oblast), 23rd Guards Rocket Division (Kansk, assigned 1983–2002), 27th Rocket Division (Svobodnyy, Amur Oblast), 29th, 36th Guards, 47th Rocket Division (Olovyannaya, Chita Oblast)[16]

RSVN training establishments included:[17]

Post Soviet Union


Like most of the Russian Armed Forces, the Strategic Missile Forces had limited access to resources for new equipment in the Yeltsin era. However, the Russian government made a priority of ensuring that the Missile Forces received new missiles to phase out older, less-reliable systems, and to incorporate newer capabilities in the face of international threats to the viability of the nuclear deterrent effect provided by their missiles. In particular the development of missile defense systems in the United States.

In 1995, the "Strategic Missile Forces Day" and "Military Space Forces Day" were created. On July 16, 1997, President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree incorporating the Russian Space Forces and the Space Missile Defence Forces (Russian: Ракетно-космической обороны) into the SMT.[18] In doing so, 'nearly 60' military units and establishments were dissolved. However, four years later, on June 1, 2001, the Russian Space Forces were reformed as a separate branch of service from the SMT.

Minister of Defence Marshal of the Russian Federation Igor Sergeev, a former commander of the SMT from August 19, 1992 – May 22, 1997, played a major role in assuring funding for his former service.[6] He was succeeded by General of the Army Vladimir Yakovlev, who commanded the SMT from June 1997 until April 27, 2001. Yakovlev was succeeded by Colonel General Nikolay Solovtsov.[citation needed]

In the early 2000s, Chief of the General Staff Army General Anatoly Kvashnin decided to downgrade the status of the Strategic Missile Forces from a branch of the armed forces to an independent combat arm. This was completed despite the opposition of Defense Minister Marshal Igor Sergeyev.[19]

Solovtsov was dismissed in July–August 2009. Speculation over why Solovtsov was dismissed included opposition to further cuts in deployed nuclear ballistic missile warheads below the April 2009 figure of 1,500, the fact that he had reached the retirement age of 60, despite that he had recently been extended another year's service, or the failure of the Navy's Bulava missile).[citation needed]

After only a year, Lieutenant General Andrey Shvaichenko, appointed on August 3, 2009, by President Dmitry Medvedev, was replaced. The current commander of the Strategic Missile Forces, Colonel General Sergei Karakayev, was appointed to the post by a presidential decree of June 22, 2010.[20][21]

The RVSN headquarters has a special sledgehammer that can be used to gain access to the launch codes if the commander feels the need to use it or if ordered directly, but does not have normal access to the safe.[citation needed] In 2020, the Strategic Missile Forces completed switching to digital information transmission technology.[22]

Composition since 2010s

A RS-24 Yars missile system of the 39th Guards Missile Division during a command post exercise in 2017.
Strategic Rocket Forces infantry during a military exercise.
A launch authorization device

The main RVSN command post is at Kuntsevo in the suburbs of Moscow. The alternate command post is at Kosvinsky Mountain in the Urals.[23]

Female cadets have started to join the Peter the Great Strategic Missile Forces Academy. In the past, only men were allowed to serve in the Missile Forces. [citation needed] RVSN institutes also exist at Serpukhov and Rostov-on-Don. An ICBM test impact range is located in the Far East, the Kura Test Range. This has been under Aerospace Defence Forces' command since 2010. [citation needed]

The Strategic Missile Forces operate four distinct missile systems. The oldest system is the silo-based R-36M2 / SS-18 Satan. It carries ten warheads. The last missile will be in service until 2020.[24][25][needs update]

The second system is the silo-based UR-100NUTTH / SS-19 Stiletto. The last Stiletto missiles in service with six warheads each will be removed by 2019. The third system, the single warhead mobile RT-2PM Topol / SS-25 Sickle was decommissioned by 2023.[26][25][27]

A new missile entering service is the RT-2UTTH Topol-M / SS-27 Sickle B with single warhead, of which 60 are silo-based and 18 are mobile. Some new missiles will be added in the future. The first upgraded Topol-M called RS-24 Yars, carrying three warheads, was commissioned in 2010. In July 2011 the first mobile regiment with nine missiles was completed.[28] From 2012 to 2017, about 80 ICBMs were placed in active duty.[29][30] The RF Defense Minister said in December 2022 that 91.3% of the country's nuclear forces was modern.[31][32][33] 3 missile regiments rearmed in 2023.[34][35]



The composition of missiles and warheads of the Strategic Missile Forces previously had to be revealed as part of the START I treaty data exchange. The most recently reported (January 2020) order of battle of the forces was as follows:[36]

Numbers of missiles and warheads


The Strategic Missile Forces have:[36]

Kristensen and Korda (2020) list the UR-100N (SS-19), as retired from deployment, while noting that UR-100NUTTH being deployed with the Avangard.[58]

Weapons and equipment

A U.S. Defense Department map of Soviet ICBM bases, 1980s

Medium-range ballistic missiles


Intermediate-range ballistic missiles


Intercontinental-range ballistic missiles


Ranks and rank insignia

Officer ranks
Rank group General / flag officers Senior officers Junior officers Officer cadet
Russian Strategic Rocket Forces
Marshal of the Russian Federation Army General Colonel General Lieutenant General Major General Colonel Lieutenant Colonel Major Captain Senior Lieutenant Lieutenant Junior Lieutenant Kursant
Marshal of the Russian Federation
Ма́ршал Росси́йской Федера́ции
Army general
генера́л а́рмии
Colonel general
Lieutenant general
Major general
Lieutenant colonel
Senior lieutenant
ста́рший лейтена́нт
Junior lieutenant
мла́дший лейтена́нт
Other ranks
Rank group General / flag officers Senior officers Junior officers Officer cadet
Russian Strategic Rocket Forces

Senior warrant officer
Ста́рший пра́порщик
Warrant officer
Master sergeant
Senior sergeant
Ста́рший сержа́нт
Junior sergeant
Мла́дший сержа́нт



According to the Federation of American Scientists, for the foreseeable future, all new Russian ICBM deployments will be of MIRVed versions of the SS-27 "Topol-M". A "new ICBM" and a "heavy ICBM" are also being developed. By the early 2020s, according to announcements by Russian military officials, all SS-18 and SS-25 ICBMs will be retired from service following the retirements of the SS-19 systems.

This development would leave a Russian ICBM force structure based on five modifications of the solid-fuel SS-27 (silo- and mobile-based SS-27 Mod 1 (Topol-M); silo- and mobile-based SS-27 Mod 2 (RS-24 Yars); and the RS-26 Rubezh) and the liquid-fuel RS-28 Sarmat with a large payload – either MIRV or some advanced payload to evade missile defense systems. Although the future force will be smaller, a greater portion of it will be MIRVed – up from approximately 36 percent in 2014 to roughly 70 percent by 2024.

See also



  1. ^ https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/IF11603.pdf [bare URL PDF]
  2. ^ Michael Holm, 24th Guards Rocket Division Archived September 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, accessed December 2013.
  3. ^ "RVSN – Strategic Missile Forces – Russian and Soviet Nuclear Forces". fas.org. Archived from the original on July 10, 2017. Retrieved April 2, 2018.
  4. ^ "5th Scientific Research Proving Ground".
  5. ^ "53rd Scientific Research Proving Ground".
  6. ^ a b c d e Mike Holm, Strategic Missile Forces Archived December 1, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ National Security Archive, http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB14/doc18.htm Archived August 8, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ [The U.S.S.R.: Moscow's Military Machine The U.S.S.R.: Moscow's Military Machine], TIME Magazine, June 23, 1980
  9. ^ Library of Congress Soviet Union Country Study Archived October 18, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, 1989
  10. ^ a b IISS Military Balance 1990–91, p.34
  11. ^ Feskov, V.I.; Kalashnikov, K.A.; Golikov, V.I. (2004). The Soviet Army in the Years of the Cold War 1945–91. Tomsk: Tomsk University Publishing House. p. 132. ISBN 5-7511-1819-7.
  12. ^ "32nd Missile Division". Ww2.dk. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. Retrieved October 9, 2012.
  13. ^ "Ukraine: Foreign Assistance:The CTR Program in Ukraine". www.nti.org. Archived from the original on November 11, 2010.
  14. ^ Previously 92 BON, then given the combined-arms designation of 22nd RVGK special-purpose brigade, then 72nd RVGK Engineer Brigade, and in 1960 the 24th Guards Division of the RVSN was formed on its basis. http://www.ww2.dk/new/rvsn/24gvmd.htm Archived September 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Formed Chita in 1970 from the 8th Independent Missile Corps, under Colonel-General Yury Zabegaylov. Included 45th Rocket Division (disbanded 1970).
  16. ^ http://www.ww2.dk/new/rvsn/47md.htm Archived September 28, 2011, at the Wayback Machine 47th Missile Division
  17. ^ Michael Holm, RSVN Schools
  18. ^ Greg Austin and Alexiy D. Muraviev, The Armed Forces of Russia in Asia, Tauris, 2001, p.185-6
  19. ^ Gavrilov, Yuri (July 20, 2004). "Президент поменял "силовиков"" [President changed "siloviks"]. Rossiyskaya Gazeta (in Russian).
  20. ^ Pavel Podvig, Russian Strategic Missile Forces Archived May 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, accessed September 2010
  21. ^ Указ Президента Российской Федерации от 09.08.2012 № 1141 "О присвоении воинских званий высших офицеров военнослужащим Вооруженных Сил Российской Федерации" [Decree of the President of the Russian Federation dated 09.08.2012 number 1141 "About the assignment of ranks of senior officers of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation"] (in Russian). Kremlin.ru. August 9, 2012. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved August 14, 2012.
  22. ^ "ЦАМТО / / В 2020 году РВСН полностью перешли на цифровые технологии передачи информации".
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  27. ^ Новости, Р. И. А. (December 16, 2023). "Мобильную группировку РВСН полностью перевооружили на комплекс "Ярс"". РИА Новости (in Russian). Retrieved January 14, 2024.
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  31. ^ "Shoigu speaks about Russian army's breakthrough at educational marathon New Knowledge".
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  33. ^ "ЦАМТО / / Сергей Шойгу подвел итоги деятельности ВС РФ в 2022 году и определил задачи на очередной период".
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  38. ^ "7-я гвардейская ракетная Режицкая Краснознаменная дивизия (в/ч 14245)". rvsn.info. Retrieved July 27, 2023.
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  52. ^ "Подробнее : Министерство обороны Российской Федерации".
  53. ^ "Missile regiment near Orenburg being rearmed with Avangard system — Defense Ministry".
  54. ^ "Avangard missiles put on combat duty in Russia's southern Urals".
  55. ^ "ЦАМТО / / В Оренбургской области завершены работы по перевооружению очередного полка соединения РВСН на РК «Авангард»". ЦАМТО / Центр анализа мировой торговли оружием (in Russian). December 18, 2023. Retrieved December 19, 2023.
  56. ^ a b "Sarmatian ICBM & FOBS Reintroduction". globalsecurity.org. Archived from the original on April 6, 2017. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  57. ^ "Минобороны раскрыло характеристики ракетного комплекса "Ярс-С"". January 29, 2021.
  58. ^ Hans M. Kristensen & Matt Korda (2020) Russian nuclear forces, 2020, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 76:2, 102-117, DOI: 10.1080/00963402.2020.1728985

Further reading

  • Дороговоз И. Г. Ракетные войска СССР. — Минск: Харвест, 2007. — 336 с. — ISBN 978-985-13-9751-4
  • John G. Hines et al. Soviet Intentions 1965–1985. Braddock Dunn & McDonald (BDM), 1995.
  • Strategic Missile Forces museum Archived March 10, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  • Main, Dr Steven J. (August 2002). The Strategic Rocket Forces 1991-2002 (PDF). Conflict Studies Research Centre.
  • "Владимирская Ракетная Стратегическая" (Vladimirskaya Strategic Missile) by I.V. Vershkov and V.G. Gagarin; Vladimir 2006; 480 pages;
  • "Оренбургская Стратегическая" (Orenburg Strategic) by Y.N. Feoktistov; Perm 2001; 328 pages; (also a 1997 edition).
  • "Читинская Ракетная Армия" (Chitinskaya Missile Army) by ??; Chita, 2002; 268 pages
  • "История 50-й Ракетной Армии I-IV" (History 50th Missile Army, part 1–4) by G.I. Smirnov and A.I. Yasakov; Smolensk 2008; 370+342+387+561 pages
  • "Стратеги" (Strategic) by V.T. Nosov; Moscow, 2008; 276 pages;