Wrap: Russia plans to modernize its missile forces by 2015

(RIA Novosti) - A leading missile designer said Thursday that Russia's sea- and land-based missile groups would be re-equipped by 2015 and the Strategic Missile Forces would have 2,000 warheads by 2020, Trend reports.

Yury Solomonov, director and chief designer at the Institute of Heat Technology, said Russia would retain its "nuclear triad" of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, sea-based submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and airborne strategic missiles that can deliver a nuclear attack by land, sea or air without resorting to third countries.

Solomonov, chief designer of Russia's Topol strategic missiles, added that after 2015 the Strategic Missile Forces would be able to operate efficiently and without further modernization until 2045, while it could take other countries 10-15 years to design intercontinental ballistic missiles similar to Russia's Topol-M (SS-27) and Bulava.

Russia has five missile regiments equipped with silo-based Topol-M missiles, Solomonov said, and the first regiment equipped with mobile Topol-M systems will be put on combat duty in 2006.

Bulava missiles, a sea-based version of the Topol-M, could be deployed on the Borey-class Yury Dolgoruky nuclear submarine in 2008.

"We will have to conduct at least ten additional Bulava test launches, and then process the data we obtain for about three years," Solomonov said.

The first in-flight test launch of the Bulava was conducted on September 27, 2005, from the Dmitry Donskoi, a Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine.

On December 21, 2005, another Bulava was launched from the Dmitry Donskoi in the White Sea before traveling thousands of miles to hit a dummy target on the Kura test site on the Kamchatka Peninsula. It was the first time a Bulava had been launched from a submerged position.

Solomonov also dismissed concerns about Iran's missile capability in the wake of recent statements by the country's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said Iran had successfully enriched uranium to a degree sufficient for use in nuclear power plants and had joined the club of nuclear-capable nations.

"Iran has neither the scientific nor the technological capability to build ICBMs," Solomonov said. But he said the country could threaten its neighbors with mid-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, similar to the Soviet-made Scuds, and produced in a modified version as the Sahap rocket.

His statement echoed sentiments expressed yesterday by Vladimir Yevseyev, a senior researcher at the Moscow-based Center for Global Security, who called Iran's announcement "a bluff."

"Iran is talking about completing a full nuclear cycle, but actually it has not gone that far because the full cycle includes plutonium separation in addition to uranium enrichment, and the country has made only a few initial steps in this sphere," Yevseyev said, adding that it could take Iran at least three years to accumulate enough high-enriched uranium to create a nuclear weapon.

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