The Air and Space Defense Forces began deployment of a network of over-the-horizon (OTH) radars, code-named "Kontainer". The first one began "experimental-combat" operations in Kovylkino, Mordovia on 2 December 2013. The radar is reported to have a range of about 3000 km, which allows it to detect aircraft over large part of Europe (the video shows operators looking at air traffic over Denmark).
It is most likely that the OTH radar network is being built to provide a warning against air-breathing targets - aircraft and cruise missiles. I wouldn't be surprised if it is also capable of detecting the kind of glider vehicles that are considered for Prompt Global Strike missions.
It appears that the story about U.S. suspicions about Russia's violating the INF treaty has just received a new life - a report published last week by Josh Rogin, suggests that the administration officials "told lawmakers that Russia had violated [the INF Treaty]" at a closed hearing held on 27 November 2012. The sources of this information are still anonymous, but the language is somewhat stronger than one in the earlier report by Bill Gertz, who quoted an unnamed intelligence official suggesting that the Rubezh missile tested by Russia in June 2013 "would violate the INF treaty" if its true characteristics were known.
I don't have much to add to what I wrote earlier - it is clear that the missile has been tested over intercontinental range and indeed it has been declared as an ICBM for the purposes of the New START treaty. Most of the evidence seems to suggest that Rubezh is a "medium-class" ICBM, but there is a theoretical possibility that it is indeed a shorter-range missile. Yes, it was flown from Plesetsk to Kura - about 5800 km - but we don't know if the missile was tested with its nominal payload. Unlike its predecessor, New START does not require telemetry exchange, so we don't really know what the payload was.
One good argument against the "Rubezh is an intermediate-range missile" theory is that it would be rather stupid of Russia to build an IRBM and declare it as an ICBM for the New START purposes. But, unfortunately, it's not entirely impossible. Whether or not this is indeed what's happened, normally these kind of disputes would be quietly resolved in the Bilateral Consultative Commission. But it appears that the issue already entered U.S. political fray, so we will probably hear more about it, mostly from Congress.
This is not the first treaty compliance dispute, of course. For example, in the 1990s, Russia believed that the United States maintain the capability to deploy more than eight warheads on Trident II D-5 missiles. The verification mechanism of the START treaty provided a way to check the number of warheads deployed on a missile, but Russia was unhappy about the hard shroud that the Navy used to cover the warheads and insisted that the shroud could hide more than eight RVs. The drawing on the left shows how the shroud looked like during an inspection at Kings Bay on 26 August 1995. It suggests that the missile carries eight warheads - six Mk 4 and two Mk 5 (below is an image from "A History of the FBM System", p. E-16, that shows possible warhead arrangements). The idea was that one could hide two Mk 4 warheads under the big Mk 5 shroud bump.
Of course, in many ways it was more a matter of principle, rather than a real concern, but there were other signs that suggested that the United States may have a way of circumventing the treaty obligations. For example, in the October 1997 tests (apparently the two D-5 launches from HMS Vigilant on October 1997), Russia saw the missile bus performing 16 maneuvers, of which 12 were warhead deployment maneuvers. The telemetry showed 11 warhead separation commands. Also, the total weight of deployed payload was determined to be 1710 kg and 1620 kg and warhead mass - 99 kg and 88 kg (close enough to the 91.7 kg weight of W76). The United Kingdom, of course, was under no obligation to limit anything, but it was clear that the test data would be shared with the United States.
Russia, of course, communicated its concerns to the United States in the Joint Compliance and Implementation Commission, but never went public with them. As far as I remember, Russia considered making a moderately strong step of officially declaring that its inspections cannot confirm that Trident carries no more than eight warheads, but it's never been done. I doubt the U.S. Congress will be able to show similar restraint, though.
If there is a moral in this story it is that the lack of transparency hurts much more than it helps. In New START Russia insisted (and the United States didn't mind) that the treaty data will be classified. Now Russia will have to deal with the consequences of what decision - if the data were open the controversy would not have appeared in the first place.
The only official confirmation of this launch came from the report given by the commander of the Rocket Forces - Sergey Karakayev said that there were eight ICBM launches in 2013. The open record, however, showed only seven, so one launch was missing. As it turned out, there was a reason it was unreported. The launch, conducted around 26 September 2013 from the Baykonur test site involved an UR-100NUTTH/SS-19 missile carrying the infamous "hypersonic" warhead. As I understand, the missile worked well, but the payload failed, so no announcement was made.
It's interesting that it's soon ten years since the "hypersonic warhead" first made an appearance (that was in February 2004, also in Baykonur and on UR-100NUTTH). That time it wasn't quite successful as well.
It's not quite fair to say that the test went completely unreported - there was a very brief word about a failure at some point before September 30, but no details were given. Now we know that a UR-100NUTTH missile was involved and have a slightly better date (it could still be a day or so off, though).
Commander of the Air and Space Defense Forces, Maj.-Gen. Aleksandr Golovko, provided an update on the early-warning radars construction plans. According to Golovko, construction of new radars is being completed in Irkutsk (Mishelevka) and Kaliningrad and new construction is launched in Yeniseysk, Orsk, Barnaul and Vorkuta. Information about these radars have been published earlier. The only exception is Vorkuta - there was a report that new radars will replace the ones in Pechora and Olenegorsk, but this is the first time one of these is officially named. It appears that the Vorkuta radar will replace the old Daryal radar in Pechora.
UPDATE: At a working meeting in Sochi, President Putin said that Russia will bring into operation seven new early-warning radars in the next five years in addition to the three - in Lekhtusi, Armavir, and Kaliningrad - that he listed as operational. These appear to be the second radar in Armavir, two radars in Michelevka, and radars in Orsk, Barnaul, Vorkuta, and Olenegorsk.
UPDATE: Apparently Vorkuta is the name that is used for the Pechora site (in the same way Irkutsk is used to refer to Mishelevka).
Two new Project 955 Borey submarines - Vladimir Monomakh and Aleksandr Nevskiy - are expected to join the Pacific Fleet in 2014. The first submarine of this class - Yuri Dolgorukiy - officially joined the Northern Fleet in September 2013. None of the submarines appear to have missiles ready for deployment, though - after the September 2013 setback, test launches of Bulava will not resume until May-June 2014. It is expected that the new test series will include six launches from Vladimir Monomakh and Aleksandr Nevskiy (some of them salvo launches).
In May 2013 the Rocket Forces announced that the service is planning to conduct 16 missile launches in 2013 (up from 11, announced in December 2012). However, according to Sergey Karakayev's report to the president, only eight ICBM launches have been conducted so far.
As far as I can tell, seven of these eight launches are
- 6 June 2013 new ICBM launch from Kapustin Yar,
- 27 June 2013 Strela/UR-100NUTTH launch from Baykonur,
- 22 August 2013 Dnepr launch from Dombarovskiy,
- 10 October 2013 Topol launch from Kapustin Yar,
- Two launches during the exercise on 30 October 2013 - R-36M2 from Dombarovskiy and Topol from Plesetsk,
- 21 November 2013 Dnepr launch from Dombarovskiy.
There were also three Rockot launches in 2013 - on January 15, 2013, September 12, 2013, and November 22, 2013. Rockot is a space launcher version of the UR-100NUTTH/SS-19 missile, but since these are launched by the Air and Space Defense Forces, they do not count as ICBM launches. So, I'm not sure what is the eighth launch.
It is possible that Karakayev counts launches conducted during the 2013 academic year (presumably from 1 September 2012 to 1 September 2013). This has been done in the past. If this is the case, then the 19 October 2012 Topol launch and the 24 October 2012 new ICBM launch should be added to the list, but six launches conducted after 1 September 2013 should be excluded. Either way, I don't see how one gets eight launches in 2013. I'm probably missing something. UPDATE: In fact, the military academic year starts on December 1st, so the list above will not be affected at all.
UPDATE: The post was updated to include the Strela launch and to exclude the Rockot launches.
UPDATE: The eighth launch was that of a UR-100NUTTH missile from Baykonur around September 26, 2013.
Speaking at a working meeting with the president in Sochi, Sergey Karakayev, the commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, reported that his force will complete deployment of two road-mobile RS-24 Yars regiments in Novosibirsk and Nizhniy Tagil by the end of the year (confirming earlier reports). A standard road-mobile regiment includes nine missiles, so we should expect 18 new Yars missiles by the year's end. No word on the silo-based Yars in Kozelsk, though - it's not quite clear what happened to this part of the plan.
In 2014 the Rocket Forces are expected to receive 22 new Yars missiles. It appears that some of these missiles will be deployed in silos in Kozelsk.
On November 22, 2013, at 16:03 MSK (12:03 UTC) the Air and Space Defense Forces conducted a launch of a Rockot launcher from Plesetsk. The launcher, equipped with a Briz-KM booster stage, delivered into orbit three Swarm satellites of the European Space Agency.
Rockot is a UR-100NUTTH/SS-19 ICBM modified to serve as a space launcher.
On 21 November 2013 the Strategic Rocket Forces, supported by the Kosmotras company, performed a successful launch of a Dnepr launcher from the Yasnyy launch site at the Dombarovsky missile division. The launch took place at 11:10:11 MSK (07:10:11 UTC). The payload delivered into orbit includes 32 small satellites - 24 were deployed during the launch and eight more will be deployed later by one of the satellites (UniSat-5).
The Dnepr launcher is a converted R-36MUTTH/RS-20B/SS-18 missile. Previous Dnepr launch took place in August 2013.
It's been exactly one year since I looked at the status of the Russian space-based early-warning system. This means that I missed the point when one of the satellites deployed on a highly-elliptical orbit, Cosmos-2469 (37170), stopped operations. The satellite, launched in September 2010, did not perform a regular orbit-keeping maneuver expected in February-March 2013. It has been drifting off the station since then.
Cosmos-2469 was reported to be the last satellite of the 73D6 type deployed on HEO, so no more HEO launches are expected. There are still two working satellites on HEO - Cosmos-2422 (launched in July 2006, it is the oldest early-warning satellite in orbit) and Cosmos-2446 (launched in December 2008). The is also one geostationary satellite - Cosmos-2479 (this is relatively new - it was launched in March 2012).
Russia has been working on a new space-based early-warning system, EKS, but it's not clear how long this development will take. At some point it was expected that the flight test of the EKS satellites will begin in 2009, then it changed to 2011-2012. In 2011 the new system was a subject of a court case and it looks like it won't be ready for some time. Meanwhile, in 2012 Russia opened a new early-warning control center at Komsomolsk-on Amur, presumably to support operations of the new system.