The RS-12M Topol (SS-25) is an intercontinental-range, road-mobile, solid propellant ballistic missile system. The Topol (meaning poplar tree) was the first fully road-mobile ICBM commissioned by the Soviet Union. The development of the RS-12M was actually forbidden by the second Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty (SALT II), which prohibited the development of more than one new missile system. The RS-12M was officially developed as an updated RS-12 Mod 2, though it is actually based on a different missile design.
The RS-12M is a road-mobile strategic system. The warhead uses a Post-Boost Vehicle (PBV) system, which grants higher accuracy to its single warhead. However, the superior accuracy of a single over a MIRV warhead allows the RS-12M to be fully capable of eliminating hardened missile silos. The yield of the warhead is also sufficient for use against soft targets, such as military bases and civilian population centers. A major advantage of the RS-12M is that it combines the near invisibility of road mobile systems with the range of a three-stage ICBM. It is extremely difficult to exactly locate and destroy a properly hidden road mobile system, making them difficult to target. The RS-12M missiles are launched from 14 wheeled Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL) vehicles. They are usually operated in forest areas to increase their survivability, and their storage sites are equipped with a sliding roof to enable emergency launch. The system is cold-launched from a canister.
The RS-12M delivers a payload of 1,000 kg up to a range of 10,500 km, this payload is equipped with a single 550 kT warhead and probably decoys as well. The system uses a digital computer controlled inertial navigation system which provides an accuracy of 200 m CEP. The RS-12M is 20.5 m long with a diameter of 1.8 m in the first stage, 1.55 m in the second, and 1.34 m in the third. Its launch weight is 45,100 kg and it uses a three-stage solid propellant engine.
The RS-12M entered development in 1971, with the first flight test occurring in 1982. The missile entered service in 1985, with 288 missiles deployed at nine sites by 1991. Production is believed to have ceased in 1994, with a total of 450 RS-12M missiles built. It was believed that in July 2002, there were 355 missiles with operational status. In July 2001 an RV flew several hundred km at 33 km (21 miles) altitude, suggesting that the RV was a hypersonic missile test or it had wings and a fitted motor.
Due to the START II agreements the RS-12M may be restricted to their garrison areas. In July 2008, 230 missiles were reported to be operational. It is believed that 90 missiles had been test launched by July 2008. By 2010 the number of missiles is expected to be reduced to 145. They will probably be phased out of service by 2020. 1
Updated October 15, 2012
- Lennox, Duncan. “RS-12M Topol (SS-25 ‘Sickle’/RT-2PM).” Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems (Offensive weapons). September 28, 2012. (accessed October 12, 2012). ↩