The Sarmat ICBM’s March 2018 ejection test at Plesetsk Cosmodrome.
The Sarmat ICBM’s March 2018 ejection test at Plesetsk Cosmodrome.

Russia Re-adjusts RS-28 Sarmat Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) Test-launch Program

TASS reported that the test-launch program of Russia’s latest Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) have been re-adjusted and only one launch will take place this year instead of the previously planned two launches. One launch is scheduled for this year in December with the frames of the flight tests. Five launches are scheduled for 2022 with the frames of the flight tests. According to earlier plans, two test launches of the Sarmat ICBM were scheduled to be held this year from the Plesetsk space center within the frames of the flight trials program.

The RS-28 Sarmat (named after the Sarmatians; NATO reporting name: SS-X-29/SS-X-30) is a Russian liquid-fueled, MIRV-equipped super-heavy intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) under development by the Makeyev Design Bureau and NPOMash since 2009. It is intended to replace the aging R-36M ICBM (SS-18 ‘Satan’) in Russia’s arsenal. In December 2017, Russia conducted its first silo ejection test of the Sarmat, which reportedly revealed technical deficiencies with the launch system. The Sarmat is one of the six new Russian strategic weapons unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 1 March 2018. Two subsequent silo ejection tests—on March and May 2018—were apparently successful.

Russia to Start Flight Tests of RS-28 Sarmat Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM)
The Sarmat Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM)’s loading test. (Photo by Russia MOD)

It is speculated that the Sarmat could fly a trajectory over the South Pole, completely immune to any current missile defense system, and that it has the Fractional Orbital Bombardment (FOBS) capability. RS-28’s launch sites are to be equipped with the “Mozyr” active protection system, designed to negate potential adversary’s first strike advantage by kinetically destroying incoming bombs, cruise missiles and ICBM warheads at altitudes of up to 6 km. It can fly over the North and South Pole and approach targets from directions that are not envisaged for interception. Sarmat can carry a line of reentry vehicles, including hypersonic Avangard gliders.

The RS-28 Sarmat will be capable of carrying about 10 tonnes of payload for either up to 10 heavy or 15 light MIRV warheads, an unspecified number of Avangard hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) or a combination of warheads and massive amounts of countermeasures against anti-ballistic missile systems. The missile is Russia’s response to the U.S. Prompt Global Strike system. Sarmat has a short boost phase, which shortens the interval when it can be tracked by satellites with infrared sensors, such as the U.S. Space-Based Infrared System, making it more difficult to intercept.

The Sarmat ICBM’s March 2018 ejection test at Plesetsk Cosmodrome.
The Sarmat Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM)’s March 2018 ejection test at Plesetsk Cosmodrome. (Photo by Russia MOD)

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