From Russia With Nukes/Intercontinental Missiles

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Ballistic missiles with a range of over 5,500 km.

The Soviets specialised in their ICBM capability quite considerably- Russia still does. Remember that they put satellites into space before the US- and many of their space launchers are modified ICBM designs. In fact, like the US, some satellites are actually old missiles.

The Soviets also developed something the US didn't- "heavy ICBMs" with lots of big warheads on. There were also plans for "monster ICBMs" with warheads of over 100 megatons.


  • R- "Rocket"
  • UR- "Universal Rocket"

R-7 Semyorka/SS-6 "Sapwood"

"Semyorka" is like "fiver" (the P-5 Pyatyorka/SS-N-3's name means "fiver", the Russian equivalent to an A-grade) but with seven instead, if such a thing can be conceived of.

Anyway, this was the very first Soviet ICBM and in fact the very first ICBM anywhere in the world. The Soviets tested in 1957 and probably more famously, used it to orbit Sputnik I just a few months later, making the R-7, or at least a close derivative, the first real space launcher anywhere, too. It was much larger than its American counterparts and had a much greater throw-weight, because the Soviets weren't very good in the miniaturization department and had bigger, more massive nukes. It was also less accurate and rather less practical. It needed huge above-ground launch complexes, like at a spaceport and it took a long while to fuel. Once fuelled, it could only be kept on alert for 24 hours, and it was slow to launch. It could have easily been destroyed on the pad in a first strike. However, once off the ground, it was essentially unstoppable, and its impact was revolutionary. It ushered in a new era. Let's not forget the implications of the R-7 for space exploration. Later, derivatives were used in the Vostok, Voskhod and Soyuz programs, putting astronauts cosmonauts into orbit. But that's another trope. Notable for its distinctive skirt-like boosters.

R-9 Desna/SS-8 "Sasin"

Another early Soviet ICBM design. It had improved range and accuracy. The best bit was that despite the cryogenic propellants, it was 20 minutes between the order being given and launch (it takes about half an hour for an ICBM to travel from the US to Russia).

R-16/SS-7 "Saddler"

Well-known for blowing up spectacularly during a test in 1960, killing about a hundred top Soviet scientists and engineers in a toxic fireball, all because of some silly absent-minded mistake. Chief desiner, Yangel, was saved, because he left the blast radius before the disaster to enjoy a cigarette. Next day he had birthday - launch was supposed to be present. One of the first practical Soviet ICBMs; eventually, ~200 were deployed. Some were silo-based.


Only got to mock-up stage before Yangel was told to focus on the R-36. The USSR then stuck it in a parade in 1964, leading the West to think it was the R-9/SS-8.

R-36/SS-9 "Scarp"

Yangel's heavyweight ICBM. Seriously heavyweight. Largest ICBM ever to enter service, the Pentagon made it into a nuclear bogeyman, dubbing it the "city buster". This along with the UR-100, were the first "ampulised" Soviet missiles. They would be fuelled, stuck in a silo and left, on constant readiness for 5 years- unlike earlier missiles that needed to be readied first (the R-16 could be only kept on readiness for 30 days- and that was one of the better ones). Had counter-measures on board as well. Succeeded by the R-36M/SS-18.

UR-100/SS-11 "Sego"

Best described as the Soviet equivalent to the LGM-30 Minuteman series, developed by Chelomei. Silo-based; later MIRV-equipped. It should be noted that the Soviets stuck with liquid propellants in their ICBMs far longer than the US did, for whatever reason. This had its disadvantages, but they managed to get very long storage times out of liquid-fuelled missiles and gained a lot of expertise in the field of liquid-fuelled engines (more useful for space flight).

RT-2/SS-13 "Savage"

The first solid-fuel Soviet ICBM. Korolev and his successor worked on this one, their preoccupation could be a factor in the loss of the race to the Moon. Only 60 were deployed- with a 600 or 1,650 KT warhead.

RT-20P/SS-X-15 or SS-XZ "Scrooge"

The only attempt at a mixed-propulsion ICBM ever, with a solid first stage and a liquid second stage. Another Yangel one, this was intended to have mobile, silo and sub-based versions. Confused the West considerably (two designations for the same thing). Initially intended for ranges of 8,000 or 11,000 km with 1.5 MT or 550KT warheads respectively (CEP 2km and 4km), it was discovered that the ranges would only be 5,000 and 7,000 km. This meant that only targets in the north-eastern US could be hit from the north-west of the USSR (in strike range of NATO forces in Norway) and with 8 failures from 12 test launches, the military leadership cried "Bah, humbug!", stated they were uneasy about nukes roaming around the countryside and cancelled the project in 1969 before it got anywhere close to deployment.

RT-21/No designation

A three stage solid-propellent ICBM. Never got beyond concept stage and was cancelled in 1966.

Temp-2S/SS-16 "Sinner"

The world's first mobile ICBM. Deployed secretly, as it violated SALT II. Range 6,500 miles (10,500km).

MR-UR-100/SS-17 "Spanker"

So we've got a "Spanker" and a "Flogger"- wonder what other sex toys there are? Actually, the reporting name is a type of sail.

Another Yangel job, an attempt to succeed the "Sego", competing with the UR-100N/SS-19. The Soviets deadlocked on the decision and put both into production. 3.6 MT (first model) or 4 300 KT/550 KT (first and second types respectively). The first time was withdrawn early due to accuracy problems and replaced by the MR-UR-100U/SS-17 Mod 3. These were being replaced from the mid-1980s, but the death knell was the collapse of the USSR. Yangel ended up a Ukrainian company, the Russian Federation deemed that having a strategic weapon maintained by a foreign company was unacceptable and the missiles went by 1994.

  • In The Third World War, an SS-17 carrying a single 1-MT warhead nukes Birmingham. The Bull Ring may have been a architectural monstrosity, but that's just overkill.

R-36M/SS-18 "Satan"

The one in the picture

The ominous reporting name is deliberate. The Americans were seriously scared of this one, because it was the largest ICBM in the world. Could carry 10 warheads of 550 to 750-kT yield or one 20 megaton warhead. To give you an idea of the power of that one, if it hit the intersection of Lafayette and Delancy in Manhattan, everything up to the middle of Central Park would be totally destroyed (and you wouldn't stand much of a chance for quite a distance outside that- if you were 13 miles away and in the open, you would be very, very dead). The Other Wiki suggests potential for first-strike use, if the Soviets had been inclined that way.

One variant (also with the R-36/SS-9) was something called a "FOBS," or "Fractional Orbit Bombardment System." The thing would orbit a nuclear warhead in a special little spacecraft. It would orbit over a target somewhere in the US and then deorbit and detonate. The idea was that they could approach from directions not covered by the US early-warning radar network and so allow for a surprise decapitation strike. The problem was poor accuracy. It's also rather less efficient than a simple ICBM. In addition, the US soon extended radar coverage and deployed early-warning satellites, which removed any possibility of a surprise attack. They remained in service until 1983, when the treaty loophole which allowed them (originally, since they wouldn't stay in orbit for a full orbit, it was completely legal, despite nuclear weapons in space nominally being banned by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty) was closed.

In recent years, surplus R-36M missiles have been used to launch satellites.

  • Counter-Strike: Condition Zero- Deleted Scenes features an SS-18 (referred to by a Russian with that name) in one of its missions- you have to stop terrorists from launching one.

UR-100N/SS-19 "Stiletto"

A "Sego" successor by Chelomei. 6 550-KT warheads or one 5 MT one. 9,650 km (5,990 mi) range. Still in Russian service with The Other Wiki suggesting 2030 is a likely retirement date.

UR-500/No designation given

A Chelomei design for a monster ICBM, it never entered service (just too big), but became the basis for the Proton/SL-12 and SL-13 space launchers- which launched the Salyut and Mir space station components. The Protons are still being used today for ISS stuff.

Koltso/No designation given

A Yuzhnoye ICBM, cancelled with the collapse of the USSR. No further info known.

RT-23 Molodets/SS-24 "Scalpel"

A rail-mobile or silo based missile, with 10 warheads. The American LGM-118A Peacekeeper missile was also planned to be rail-mobile, but the end of the Cold War and that great constraint on the US military- money- lead to that not happening). Now retired, but was a real-life Cool Train.

RT-2PM Topol (Poplar)/SS-25 "Sickle"

This is a road-mobile missile. One recently featured in the 2008 Red Square Parade.

RT-2UTTKh Topol-M/SS-27

The most recent type of intercontinental strategic missile, currently in the process of being re-equipped with MIRV warheads (as the RS-24) and scheduled for deployment with those from 2010. Like the Topol, it is road-mobile. The range is 11,000 kilometers, and the circular error probable is 200 meters. Featured in the 2010 Victory Day Parade.

  • This type of missile features prominently at the climax of the FPS Call of Duty 4.
  • In the last episode of Alias this or the Topol are the two missiles acquired by Irina Derevko and Sark with the intention of nuking Washington, DC and London. Let's ignore the nuclear error involved here.

Other Intercontinental Missiles

[Tu-130 KR (winged rocket)]

A seriously weird proposal, being a boost-glide intercontinental missile. This would mean it would have been launched like a missile, reach a certain height, then glide to its target. Work began in 1957, but was axed after a year in favour of something just as crazy...


The Soviet version of Project Pluto (See Superior Firepower), a nuclear-powered missile, albeit with less nastiness. Studied c.1957, but got nowhere.