FAS | Nuke | Guide | Russia | ICBM |||| Index | Search |


Approximately the size of the U.S. Minuteman ICBM, the SS-25 carries a single-warhead atop a three stage system. The SS-25 is road mobile, making the missile inherently survivable and capable of reload/refire operations. It can fire from field deployment sites or through the sliding roof garage it occupies at its base. The SS-25 joined operational Soviet SRF regiments in 1985. A total area of approximately 190,000 square kilometers could be required to deploy a force consisting of 500 road-mobile SS-25 ICBMs. A much higher number of personnel for the maintenance of the mobile versions than for the fixed missiles, and the maintenance and operation of mobile ICBMs are significantly more expensive.

The three stage solid propellant RT-2PM Topol became the first Soviet mobile ICBM. It was deployed after almost two decades of unsuccessful attempts undertaken by different design bureaus. It emerged from the line of development of mobile missiles such as the SS-X-16 Temp-2S and the 'SS-20 Pioneer, and was deployed as a replacement for the widely deployed SS-11 SEGO.

All three stages are made of composite materials. During the first stage operation the flight control is implemented through four aerodynamic and four jet vanes. Four similar trellised aerodynamic surfaces serve for stabilization. During the second and third stage of flight gas is injected into the diverging part of the nozzle.With a throw-weight of 1000 kg the "Topol" carries a single warhead with a yield of 550 Kt and an accuracy (CEP) of 900m according to Russian sources [or 300m according to Western sources].

The missile is deployed in a transport-launch canister stationed on a mobile launch vehicle. The Transporter Erector Launcher is mounted on cross-country 7-axle chassis which incorprates jacks, gas and hydraulic drives and cylinders, with a power of several hundred tons, for jacking and leveling of the launcher, speeded up (combat) and slowed down (maintenance) elevation of the container with the missile to the vertical position. The TEL is accompanied by a Mobile command post, which carries support facilities mounted on cross-country 4-axle chassis with unified vans. The complex is equipped with an onboard inertial navigation system which provides a capability to conduct the launch independently from its field deployment sites. This topo-geodesic support and navigation subsystem, created by the “Signal” Research Institute, provides a quick and highly precise tie-in of the launcher in a field position and enables its crew to carry out missile launches from any combat patrol route point. The launch can also be carried out at regimental bases from the garrison garage, which has a sliding roof.

The order to begin the development of this missile was approved on July 19, 1977 and carried out by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology headed by A. D. Nadiradzye. The flight tests were conducted on the Plesetsk test site from 08 February through 23 December 1985. During this period the battle management system constituted the main problem that had to be resolved. After the first test series was successfully conducted in April 1985, the first regiment with Topol missiles was put on 23 July 1985. Through this time work on improving the battle management system continued. The first regiment with "Topol"-missiles employing a modernized mobile command center (in area the of Irkutsk) were put on alert on 27 May 1988. The test missile firings were finally completed on 23 December 1987.

At the time of the signing of the Start-1 treaty in 1991 the Soviet Union had deployed some 288 Topol missiles. Deployment continued, and at the end of 1996 a total of 360 Topol missiles were deployed.

The Topol missile was deployed at previously developed deployment sites. After the INF-Treaty was signed in 1987 several SS-20 Pioneer deployment sites were adapted for the SS-25 Topol missiles. The United States expressed specific concerns during the INF treaty negotiations. When the SS-25 missile system was deployed in the field, with its missile inside the canister and mounted on the launcher, the US contended that the canister might conceal an SS-20 missile. The one distinguishing characteristic between the two systems, US treaty negotiators argued, was that the SS-25 had a single nuclear warhead, while the SS-20 had three warheads. After considerable discussion, the Soviet Union agreed to a provision in the treaty allowing the inspecting party the right to use radiation detection equipment to measure the fast neutron intensity flux emanating from the launch canister. A launch canister with a missile inside containing a single warhead (SS-25) emitted a different pattern of fast neutrons than did one with a missile having three warheads (SS-20). In the Memorandum of Agreement of 21 December 1989, the USSR and the U.S. agreed on procedures on how measurements would be taken during an on-site inspection.

As the provisions of the SALT-2 agreement prohibited the deployment of more than one new missile (which became RT-23UTTh), it was officially declared by the Soviet Union that the SS-25 Topol was developed to upgrade the silo based SS-13 RT-2P. The US government disputed this view, contending that the missile was clearly more than 5% larger and had twice the throw-weight as the SS-13.

An SS-25 with two MIRVs may have been tested in 1991, and the missile was tested at least once with four MIRV warheads, but no further development of a mutiple warhead version was carried out. This became an issue during the conclusion of the 1991 START negotiations, at which time the US pressed for a definition of "downloading" (removing warheads from missiles) that would complicate any Soviet attempt suddenly to deploy multiple warheads on the SS-25.

Russia plans to to reequip approximately 400 silos in which obsolete SS-11, SS-13 and SS-17 missiles are located. Under the START-II Treaty Russia is permitted to place 90 single- warhead solid fuel missiles in reequipped SS-18 ICBM silos. On-site inspection of SS-18 heavy ICBM silo conversions, to guard against a break-out scenario involving speedy reconversion of SS-18 silos, is one particularly important aspect of START II verification in accordance with the Protocol on Procedures Governing Elimination of Heavy ICBMs and on Procedures Governing Conversion of Silo Launchers of Heavy ICBMs. US inspectors could either physically witness the pouring of the five meters of concrete in the bottom of the silo or measure silo depth before and after the concrete was poured. Although the Treaty prohibits emplacement in such converted silos of a missile with a launch canister greater than 2.5 meters in diameter, and the Russians have undertaken a political commitment to deploy in these converted launchers only a single-warhead ICBMs of the SS-25 type, the possibility exists that Russia could further modify the converted SS-18 silos to enable them to launch a different missile than the one declared.

The breakup of the Soviet Union had a significant impact on the Topol program. The Minsk Wheeled Truck-Tractor Manufacturing Plant [MAZ] in Belarus manufactured the missiles' transporter launchers, and some 90% of the components of the guidance system were manufactured in Ukraine.

In Belarus, as of December 1995, 63 SS-25 ICBMs originally deployed there had been returned to Russia. As of December 1995, Belarus had two operational SS-25 mobile ICBM regiments remaining on its territory, with a total of 18 nuclear warheads. In July 1992, Belarus signed an agreement with Russia placing the regiments under exclusive Russian control. In September 1993, Moscow and Minsk signed an agreement requiring the return of these nuclear missiles and all related missile support equipment to Russia by the end of 1996. A total of 81 SS-25 ICBMs and associated warheads were returned to Russia from Belarus.

By the late 1990s the lack of resources and qualified personnel forced the Russian Navy to cut back operations considerably, with no more than one or two regiments of the mobile SS-25 missiles dispersed in the field. The remaining 40 or so regiments, each with nine single-warhead missiles, remain in garrison.



PL-5 & SS-25









Design Bureau

(MIT) Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology, Acad. A. D. Nadiradze



Years of R&D


Engineering and Testing


First Flight test

10/27/1982 failure, 2/8/1983 success


7/23/1985 authorized, 8/2/1985 operational

Deployment Date


Type of Warhead




Yield (Mt)


Payload (kg)

1,000 ? 1,200

Total length (m)

20.5 - 21.5

Total length w/o warhead (m)


Missile Diameter (m)


Launch Weight (t)


Fuel Weight (t)


Range (km)


CEP (m) (Russian Sources)


CEP (m) (Western Sources)


Number of Stages


Canister length (m)


Canister length w/o front

Meters (m)


Canister diameter (m)


Booster guidance system

Inertial, autonomous


1st stage

2nd stage

3rd stage

4th. Stage Bus

Length (m)





Body diameter (m)





Fueled weight (t)



Dry weight (t)


Solid Motor Designation



Solid Propellant

Solid Propellant



Burning time (sec.)


Solid Motor Thrust Sea Level/Vacuum (Tonnes)


Specific Impulse Sea Level/Vacuum (sec.)


Basing Mode


Launch Technique


Deployed boosters


Test Boosters


Warheads Deployed


Training Launchers


Space Booster Variant


Deployment Sites


Locale US-Designation











Nizhniy Tagil

Verknyaya Salda



Yoshkar Ola

Yoshkar Ola



in Launch
Version A
Version B
Version A
with Missile

SS-25/RS-12M Road-Mobile Launcher
Version B
with Missile

SS-25/RS-12M, Stage 1

Driver Training Vehicle 1.0

Driver Training Vehicle 1.1

Fixed Structure for Road-Mobile Launchers

Sources and Resources

FAS | Nuke | Guide | Russia | ICBM |||| Index | Search |

Implemented by John Pike, Charles Vick, Mirko Jacubowski, and Patrick Garrett
Maintained by Webmaster
Updated Saturday, July 29, 2000 10:17:36 AM