The single-warhead Topol-M is an advanced version of the silo-based and mobile Topol intercontinental ballistic missile. The solid-propellant three- stage Topol-M missile complex, with a standardized (silo and mobile) missile, is to become the foundation of the Russian strategic nuclear forces in the 21st century. It is planned to accommodate Topol-M both on self-propelled launchers as well as in silos. High survivability of the mobile complex is achieved by the capability of offroad movement, of a continuous change in location and of a missile launch from any point along the movement route. The Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering (MIT) State Enterprise is the only plant in Russia building such missiles today.
The modernized 45-ton Topol-M is the first strategic missile to be built by Russia without the participation of Ukraine and CIS countries. The flight and design testing of the Topol-M was successfully completed in 1995, and joint flight-testing is continuing, leading to a decision to commence series production. All the launches have been a success, but serial production has not started due to a shortage of funds. On 08 July 1997 the fourth launch of a Topol-M ICBM was successfully made from the Strategic Missile Forces' Plesetsk State Test Site within the framework of joint flight-testing. Work on the new Topol-M ICBM is lagging seriously behind the initial timetable. Defense state order financing for the next decade provides that by 2003 there will be on the order of 250-300 Topol-M missiles in service. A total of 1.5 trillion [old] rubles were included in the 1997 budget for the development of the Topol-M missile complex. The Russian Missile Troops are permitted to have 300 Topol RS-12M mobile missiles under the START II Treaty, and the RVSN must acquire two Topol-M regiments annually up to 2001, which will cost 3.7 billion new rubles. A total of R700 billion would be required to place 450 Topol-M missiles in service by 2005 to maintain parity under START II.
But the present 55 percent funding will permit production of at the very most 10-15 missiles at this facility each year year. As a result the Strategic Missile Troops will have a total of approximately 350-400 ICBM warheads, not the 800-900 which are permited within the framework of the START II Treaty. On 15 April 1998 Acting Prime Minister Sergey Kiriyenko approved a schedule of monthly budget appropriations for the Topol-M, which he noted would make up the core of Russia's strategic nuclear forces. In December 1997, the first two Topol-M systems were put on alert for a trial period with the Taman Division at Tatischevo in the Saratov region. As of late July 1998 two more Topol-M launch sites were completed and were awaiting acceptance trials. The Topol-M missile system is being commissioned in the Russian strategic nuclear forces' grouping regardless of whether heavy missiles are stood down from combat alert duty or not. It is intended that the Topol-M ICBM grouping will comprise an equal number of mobile and silo-launched missiles. Some 90 of the 360 launch silos vacated by the RS-20 ICBM's, which are being stood down from combat alert duty, need to be converted for the latter. Apart from Saratov Oblast the Topol-M systems will be deployed in Valday, the southern Urals, and the Altay.
The Topol-M missiles could be transformed into missiles with multiple reentry vehicles [MIRV's], since their throw weight allows accommodating 3-4 warheads on a missile. The warheads could be taken from some of those ground-based and naval missiles which will be withdrawn from the order of battle in coming years.
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