Russia’s RS-28 Sarmat: Gamechanger for East, Troublemaker for West?

The RS-28 Sarmat missile is a strategic offensive weapon that President Putin has claimed no other country has besides Russia.

According to an announcement from the Russian Defense Ministry, Russia successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-28 “Sarmat,” from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome on April 20.

The Russian military has successfully tested five Sarmat missiles since 2017, all of which have been successful. Moscow is expected to deploy the first Sarmat missile regiment into service in 2022.

Sarmat is the world’s most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile with the longest range, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, and it will greatly improve the combat capabilities of Russia’s strategic nuclear weapons. Sarmat is also a strategic weapon that, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin, no other country possesses.

It’s impossible to intercept it.

The United States, Russia’s main adversary, presently has roughly 5,800 nuclear weapons, with 3,800 of them deemed operational. There are at least 400 LGM-30 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles in that stockpile (ICBMs).

The Minuteman III, in operation since 1970, has a range of about 6,000 miles (approximately 9,600 km) and an accuracy of 800 feet (about 0.24 km).These missiles may carry one to three nuclear bombs with a maximum explosive yield of 475 kilotons and 1,425 megatons, respectively. That each American ICBM has 95 times the devastating force of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

However, in comparison to Russia’s most modern and powerful ICBM, the Sarmat, these missiles are still utterly “underdogs.”

The Sarmat has a range of over 18,000 kilometers and can carry between 10 and 15 independently approaching multi-head (MIRV) warheads with a yield of 50 megatons. Sarmat, in other terms, is 35 times more lethal than Minuteman III. Sarmat has been depicted in Russian media as a weapon capable of wiping out an area the size of Texas (USA) or France.

“Compared to the previous generation, the RS-28 Sarmat missile is not only lighter, but also has a longer range,” says Russian military analyst Viktor Litovkin. The Satan missile has a range of 11,000 kilometers, whereas the RS-28 Sarmat has a range of almost 17,000 kilometers. In addition, the missile hits its target by flying across the South Pole, something no one predicted and where there is no missile defense system.”

“No missile defense system in operation or under construction can intercept the RS-28 Sarmat,” bragged Lieutenant General Viktor Esin, former commander of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces. He explained that the RS-28 Sarmat flies at supersonic speeds to the target and frequently changes direction and altitude, making it impossible to intercept.

Equipment and a test plan

The JSC Makeyev Design Bureau National Missile Center, a missile technology complex specializing in the development of submarine-launched ballistic missile models, created the RS-28 Sarmat Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) for the Russian Navy. The first Sarmat rocket tests were conducted at the Plesetsk cosmodrome in the years 2017-2018. Makeyev then began the process of redesigning the Sarmat missile so that it might be ready for state testing.

The first launch, according to Alexander Gavrilov, General Director of the Krasmash Missile Production Plant, will take place in the third quarter of 2021 as part of state tests. This plan, however, appears to have been abandoned. With the test on April 20, 2022, the launch timetable for the Sarmat rocket for this year has been pushed up faster than intended.

The Sarmat missile has been extensively reported in recent years as being on the verge of entering service and receiving combat duty by the early 2020s. This is also confirmed by the Russian Ministry of Defense’s existing plans for 2022.

General Sergei Karakaev, Commander-in-Chief of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces, spoke to the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper in December 2021 about the challenges ahead. As a result, the first Sarmat regiment must be sent to battle as part of the Uzhur missile division by the end of 2022. At that stage, the infrastructure is being readied, as well as the necessary testing operations.

Installation of 21 launchers with various types of ICBMs, including the new Sarmat missile, is one of General Karakaev’s top priorities for 2022.

According to experts, the under development Sarmat missile complex is a promising replacement for the obsolete R-36M Voevoda weapons. According to recent rumors, the R-36M Voyevoda system would be phased out of service as early as 2022. The R-36M missile will be phased out of service in a few years. At the same time, the Russian army intends to deploy new Sarmat complexes and bring them into service as quickly as possible.

The Strategic Missile Force’s rearmament should be done in a disciplined and orderly fashion. Decommissioning outdated missiles must be complemented by the introduction of new missiles in equivalent numbers. If the Sarmat test is postponed, it may result in deviations in these protocols, compromising the Russian Strategic Missile Forces’ fighting capability.

Experts believe, however, that the effort to create the RS-28 Sarmat complex will be completed shortly and will produce the necessary outcomes. The existing project completion schedule is less likely to change.

The Russian Strategic Missile Forces will be able to receive the requisite number of new missiles in the medium term and will engage in the strategic deterrence role in the next decades.

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