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R-36M (SS-18 Satan)

Intercontinental ballistic missile

R-36 (SS-18 Satan) ICBM

The R-36M (SS-18 Satan) is the worlds heaviest and most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile

R-36M2 Voevoda (SS-18 Mod 6 Satan)
Country of origin Soviet Union
Entered service 1988
Basing Silo-based
Missile length 34.3 m
Missile diameter 3 m
Launch weight 211.1 t
Number of MIRVs 10
Warhead yield 0.8 - 1 MT
Range of fire 11 000 km
CEP 200 m


   The R-36 was a Soviet Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). It was designated by the West as SS-9 Scarp. It was the first model that eventually evolved into a whole R-36 family of Soviet ICBMs. First cold-launch tests of the R-36 missile were conducted in January 1971. This original version, called the Mod.1, was able to carry a single nuclear warhead with a blast yield of 18-25 MT. This missile had a range of 11 200 km. Later the R-36 evolved into the improved R-36M (Western designation SS-18 Satan), capable of carrying a MIRV payload of 10 warheads. Each with 550-750 kT yield. The R-36M missile could also carry a single warhead of up to 20 MT. Development of this missile began in 1969. Its first test launch was made in 1973. A first batch of 56 missiles was deployed in 1977, but these were later replaced by more modern Mod.3 and Mod.4 versions.

   All variants of the Satan are silo-launched. Silos are located in dispersed locations. The silo launcher and command point are hardened against a nuclear explosion.

   This ICBM has two stages. Missile is equipped with liquid rocket engines, using storable propellants. Missile is stored in a tubular storage/launch container. Upon launch the missile is shot out of the container. The main engine is ignited tens of meters above the ground. Throughout the years the Satan missile proved to be reliable, as most launches were successful.

   The R-36M is able to employ multiple trajectories over the North Pole or South Pole, in order to reach targets in the United States.

   The R-36M is a very capable missile, mainly because of its high speed and extremely high throw weight. It can carry up to 10 MIRVs and up to 40 penetration aids. So this missile is hard to intercept. According to Western intelligence data from late 1980s, Soviets were able to destroy 70-80 percent of US ICBM silos during first strike, and after that, they would still have 1 000+ warheads left to attack other US targets. Some sources report that a single SS-18 missile with MIRVs can completely destroy 3 US states, such as Maryland, Vermont and Rhode Island. However it is considered that the dated R-36M missile may not modern anti-ballistic missile systems.

   Russia is steadily decreasing the number of active Satan missiles. Missiles that age past their designed operational lifetime are being withdrawn. By 2009 only 59 missiles remained in service. These were the latest R-36MUTTKh and R-36M2 variants. Around 40 missiles had their service life extended in order to remain operational until 2019, until the new RS-28 Sarmat (SS-X-30) becomes operations. The R-39M missiles are being gradually phased out of service, in favor of more modern systems like MIRV-equipped Topol-M, RS-24 Yars, and the new RS-26 Rubezh, that was planned to be deployed in 2016.

   A number of surplus R-36M missiles were been modified for commercial launches from silos. These converted missiles are known as Dnepr and carry lightweight commercial satellites. It was a joint Russian and Ukrainian program. Between 1999 and 2015 a total of 22 Dnepr launches were made (21 successful). However in 2015, after the annexation of Crimea and Russia's military involvement in Ukraine this has been suspended.




   R-36M (SS-18 Mod.1). This missile had a single 18 MT warhead or alternatively could carry 8 re-entry vehicles (4 x 400 kT and 4 x 1 MT). It had a range of 11 200 km and a CEP of 700 m. A total of 148 missiles were deployed between 1974 and 1983.

   R-36M (SS-18 Mod.2). This missile carried 10 MIRVs with a blast yield of 0.4 MT each. It had a range of 10 200 km and a CEP of 700 m. Only 10 of these missiles were deployed between 1976 and 1980.

   R-36M (SS-18 Mod.3) was an upgrade of the Mod.1, carrying a single re-entry vehicle with blast yield of 25 MT. This missile had a range of 16 000 km and a CEP of 700 m. It was deployed operationally between 1976 and 1986.

   R-36MUTTKh (SS-18 Mod.4). The "UTTKh" designation stands for "improved tactical and technical characteristics". This missile introduced lighter weight MIRV warheads. Western intelligence suggests that it could carry as much as 14 MIRVs, but Russians denied that, saying that Mod 4 is capable of carrying 10 independent warheads with a blast yield of 0.5 MT each. This missile has a range of 11 000 km and a CEP of 370 m. It was deployed in large numbers. A total of 278 missiles were deployed between 1979 and 2005.

   R-36MUTTKh (SS-18 Mod.5). This missile had a single 20 MT warhead. It had a range of 16 000 km and a CEP of 200 m. It was deployed since 1986. A total of 30 missiles were deployed. All of them were retired by 2009.

   R-36M2 Voevoda (SS-18 Mod.6). It was first deployed in 1988. It was deployed both with single warhead configuration and with 10 MIRVs with a blast yield of 0.75-1 MT each. This missile has a range of 11 000 km with a CEP of 220 m. A total of 58 missile were deployed. This missile is still in service with the Russian Strategic Missile Forces.

   RS-28 Sarmat (SS-X-30) is a new Russian silo-based ICBM, that is currently being developed. Its development commenced in 2009. It is planned that this missile will be deployed in around 2020 and will completely replace in service surviving Satan missiles. The first image of the RS-28 Sarmat was declassified in 2016. It looks that he RS-29 has many design features of the R-36M and might be actually an evolution of the R-36M, rather than a completely new design.


Savo Ukropina

   Article by SAVO UKROPINA

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Video of the R-36 (SS-18 Satan) ICBM

R-36 (SS-18 Satan) ICBM

R-36 (SS-18 Satan) ICBM

R-36 (SS-18 Satan) ICBM

R-36 (SS-18 Satan) ICBM

R-36 (SS-18 Satan) ICBM

R-36 (SS-18 Satan) ICBM

R-36 (SS-18 Satan) ICBM

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