TechRussia phases out its Cold War-era Topol missiles in favor of the modern Yars system

Russia phases out its Cold War‑era Topol missiles in favor of the modern Yars system

Mobile launcher RS-24 Yars
Mobile launcher RS-24 Yars
Images source: © Wikimedia Commons, Vitaly V. Kuzmin, Lic. CC BY-SA 4.0 | Vitaly V. Kuzmin

5:22 PM EST, January 9, 2024

The Strategic Missile Forces are considered the most invested-in sector of the Russian armed forces. As a component of strategic nuclear deterrence, they serve as a cornerstone of the Kremlin's security policy and are systematically being modernized.

According to Russian media, Vladimir Putin has green-lighted the decommissioning of RT-2PM Topol missiles. He has established a timeline for the withdrawal of RT-2PM2 Topol-M missiles, which are anticipated to be phased out from the Russian army by 2025.

These older missiles, developed during the Cold War, already have a successor: the RS-24 Yars system, which has been in service since 2010. What is known about these Russian weapons?

Russia's Mobile Ballistic Missiles

Topol missiles, developed in the 70s and instituted in the mid-80s, brought a new dynamic to the Russian strategic forces. They were the world's first intercontinental missiles that could be transported on a multi-wheel, vehicular chassis rather than being stationed in silos or aboard a submarine.

The mobility of this system made it challenging to locate and destroy, providing Moscow with a significant edge in the global nuclear power play. The somewhat low accuracy of the Topol missile (CEP was 984 yards) was balanced out by the large power of the attached warhead with a force of 1 Mt. In the 90s, a more precise (CEP 219 yards) system modernization, namely the Topol-M missiles, was introduced.

Vitaly V. Kuzmin/Russian ballistic missile
Vitaly V. Kuzmin/Russian ballistic missile© Vitaly V. Kuzmin | Vitaly V. Kuzmin

Presently, this weapon is being replaced by the next-generation of mobile intercontinental missiles, specifically the RS-24 Yars system. These solid-fuel rockets dimensions are impressive, measuring 73.8 feet long, weighing 54 tons, and capable of targeting places up to 7,456 miles afar.

The missiles can be launched either from stationary missile silos or from TEL (Transporter Erector Launcher) vehicles, which combine the transport function with the ability to position the missile in a launch position and execute a launch. In comparison to Topol missiles, Yars missiles are not only more accurate but also have a shorter launch preparation time.

The approximate accuracy of Yars missiles is between 656 and 492 feet, and each of them can carry anywhere from three to six sub-warheads (MIRV). In the case of warheads with less power, up to ten can be carried, each capable of hitting separate targets.

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