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Why Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces Are Prepping to Stage Massive Drills

  • Why Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces Are Prepping to Stage Massive Drills
    Later this month, Russia’ Strategic Missile Troops, the branch of the armed forces which operates the country’s mobile land-based nuclear-armed ICBMS, will roll out ten mobile missile regiments for drills. Military analyst Andrei Kotz explains what message the obvious show of force is meant to send.

    Earlier this week, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that ten Strategic Missile Forces regiments (i.e. up to 90 mobile Topol-M and RS-24 Yars ground-based intercontinental ballistic missile launchers) would begin drilling later this month. The elite units will practice everything from movement, to prepping launch positions, to ‘maskirovka’, a term describing the use of camouflage, denial and deception to thwart the prospective adversary’s attempts at aerial reconnaisance and sabotage.

    “In the second half of June, missile regiments will begin exercises in field positions in the Tver, Novosibirsk, Sverdlovsk, Kirov, Irkutsk and Ivanovo regions,” the MoD’s press service confirmed.

    And while the MoD says that the drills are routine, and part of summer training involving all branches of the service, military analyst and RIA Novosti contributor Andrei Kotz suggested that the maneuvers could also be interpreted as a show of strength, particularly given the present international situation.

    The scale of the drills is serious enough. A single Topol-M launcher carries a lone 800 kiloton warhead, but its design also enables it to deploy multiple warheads, using what’s known as a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV). As for the RS-24 Yars, that system is MIRV equipped from the get-go, with each missile containing at least 4 MIRVs, each armed with 150-250 kiloton warheads. In other words, the drills taking place later this month will involve units which are hypothetically capable of launching hundreds of Russia’s deadliest and most advanced nuclear missiles.

    According to Kotz, the upcoming exercises may be a response to US and NATO activity along Russia’s western borders.

    For example, the journalist recalled that just last week, Russian Su-27 fighters had to scramble twice to intercept US B-52 and B-1B Lancer bombers in the Baltic Sea. Each time, the Pentagon said the bombers were carrying out routine flights, as part of NATO’s BaltOps naval drills (a large-scale, 14 nation exercise involving 55 aircraft, 50 surface ships and subs).

    Kotz pointed out that routine or not, it’s no secret that the B-52 and the B-1B are the backbone of the air component of the US nuclear triad. Each plane is capable of carrying ALCM AGM-86 nuclear cruise missiles, which feature a 200 kiloton warhead and have a range of over 2,500 km. This, the journalist stressed, is “more than enough to cover the major cities in the western part of Russia, beginning from the Baltic coast of Estonia.” In other words, “it’s no surprise that the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces promptly scrambled fighters to escort the US bombers; leaving such targets unattended would simply be foolish.”

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June 17, 2017 - Posted by | GeoPolitics | , , , , ,

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