Here's What You Need to Know: Exact details on the Sarmat’s capabilities have been sparse, but it has been reported that the ICBM is able to carry ten large warheads.
In March 2020, Russia completed the upgrade of its facilities for serial production of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and in December 2020 announced that the first of the platforms will enter combat duty in 2022. The RS-28 Sarmat is an advanced silo-based system that is equipped with a heavy liquid-propellant ICBM. It has been in development since the early 2000s to replace the aging R-35M2 Voyevoda and SS-18 Satan system.
The new Sarmat, which Russia claims can penetrate any existing missile defense, will enter service with Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN), and provide the Russian Federation with the state-of-the-art platform a has greater range and speed than existing ICBMs. It weighs about 200 tonnes, and has a throw weight of around 10 tonnes, along with the capability of breaching any existing and future missile defenses.
“At present, defense industry enterprises continue to get ready for state flight trials of the Sarmat ICBM system,” RVSN command Sergey Karakayev said in an interview with the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper, according to Tass. “It [Sarmat] is scheduled to enter combat duty in 2022.”
The Sarmat was reportedly named for the nomadic Sarmatian tribes who lived in the 6th to 4th centuries BC in the territory of what is present-day Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. The platform has earned praise from Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin who has proclaimed that even the most advanced anti-ballistic missile defenses would prove inadequate against it.
Exact details on the Sarmat’s capabilities have been sparse, but it has been reported that the ICBM is able to carry ten large warheads, or sixteen smaller warheads. Moreover, it could be utilized as the delivery vehicle for a hypersonic boost-glide weapon. It may also have had a complex development process as its introduction has been delayed several times, with its initial introduction slated for 2018, only to be pushed back to 2021 and now the Russia media has stated it will begin operations in 2022—and that is likely at the earliest.
Avangard ICBM Also in Development
Tass also reported that Russia’s Avangard strategic intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)—which means “avant-garde” in Russian—could herald a new era of strategic hypersonic weapons.
“As far as the name of this missile system is concerned - it truly speaks for itself,” Karakayev added. “By the way, the advanced system got the name at the very start, at the stage of research and development. This missile system is by right at the forefront of the effort to create new types of weaponry, ushering in the era of strategic hypersound weapons.”
The RVSN commander added that the Avangard, which was developed in response to the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative in 1985, and could lay the basis for developing new types of combat elements for present-day and even prospective strategic missiles.
“The Avangard missile system will undoubtedly become an efficient element in RVSN’s inventory of weapons, expanding the combat potential of the troops and creating conditions for the development of new types of combat elements for modern and prospective strategic missiles,” Karakayev explained. “I hope that the role that RVSN currently plays in the country’s strategic triad became even more significant when this new missile system, Avangard, entered duty.”
The strategic ICBM is equipped with hypersonic boost-glide vehicle, which is capable of flying at over twenty times the speed of sound in the dense layers of the atmosphere. It can also maneuver its flight path as well as its altitude, which could enable it breach any anti-missile defense.
The first missile regiment armed with the Avangard entered duty near Orenburg in the southern Urals in 2019.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.
This article first appeared in December 2020.
Image: Russia's R-36M ICBM / Wikimedia Commons