Encyclopedia Astronautica
RT-23



rt23umw.jpg
RT-23U
The only rail-based ICBM ever deployed. Developed by Yuzhnoye in the Ukraine was protracted, but understandable given the huge technical challenges. Twelve years of design and testing was followed by deployment from 1988. All were retired by 2003.

Development of a train-based ICBM had been a long-term objective of the Soviet military. Interest was already piqued by the V-2 launch train captured from Germany in 1945, and used at Kapustin Yar for the first ballistic missile tests in the late 1940's. The advantages were that they allowed a greater missile mass then road-mobile concepts. Yangel had studied a 12-wagon train-launched version of the R-12 in the 1950's, and this method had also been developed for the Burya intercontinental cruise missile of the same period. Difficulties in developing a road-mobile ICBM with a practical take-off mass led to studies of train-launched versions of the RT-2 and RT-21 in the 1960's. None of these went beyond the design stage.

Following study of the lessons learned in development of Yangel's abortive mixed propulsion land-mobile RT-20P, the leadership ordered long-term study by Yuzhnoye of a train-launched ICBM. This was to use all solid propellants and be of a practical size while delivering a large enough nuclear warhead to justify the expense. Long-term research on a train-based BZhRK version of the RT-23 began on 13 January 1969. The advanced project was completed the same year. KBSM designed the launch train, which would consist of six SM-SP-35 launch carriages, four carriages for storage and security of nuclear weapons, and five support carriages. In October 1975 the Pavlograd Mechanical Factory began fabrication of the key 15D65 high-performance solid rocket stage, the basis of the first stage of both the RT-23 ICBM and the R-39 SLBM.

Full development of the RT-23 mobile ICBM began with a resolution of 23 July 1976 which authorised development of both silo and mobile versions, with a total missile mass of 100 to 150 tonnes. The draft project for the single-warhead silo and truck-based versions was completed in March 1977. A 1 July 1979 decree added the requirement for the missile to be capable of dispensing 3 to 4 multiple independently-targeted warheads.

More... - Chronology...


Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Tselina-2 Ukrainian intercontinental ballistic missile. Development of the Tselina-2 road transport for a heavy ICBM can be traced back to the late 1960's. By the 1970's two versions had been designed, the 12-axle MAZ-7906 and 8-axle MAZ-7907. They could transport loads of up to 140 tonnes, much greater than the single-warhead RT-23 and its container. Although trials of prototypes were conducted in the 1980's, the road mobile version of the RT-23 was never put into service. More...
  • RT-23 Ukrainian intercontinental ballistic missile. The only rail-based ICBM ever deployed. Developed by Yuzhnoye in the Ukraine was protracted, but understandable given the huge technical challenges. Twelve years of design and testing was followed by deployment from 1988. All were retired by 2003. More...
  • RT-23 15Zh44 Ukrainian intercontinental ballistic missile. The draft project for the silo-based RT-23 with the 15F143 warhead was completed in December 1979. Trials of this basic version began at Plesetsk on 26 October 1982. The basic RT-23 was accepted for military service on 10 February 1983, but the decision was taken not to put it into production. All resources were to be devoted to an improved RT-23UTTKh. More...
  • RT-23U 15Zh60 Ukrainian intercontinental ballistic missile. Design began of the silo-based version of the RT-23UTTKh on 9 August 1983. More...
  • RT-23 15Zh52 Ukrainian intercontinental ballistic missile. A draft project of the 15Zh52 MIRV train-based version of the RT-23 was completed in June 1980. The system was designed to allow the mobile launchers to conduct long-duration deployments up to 200 km from base. More...
  • RT-23U 15Zh61 Ukrainian intercontinental ballistic missile. A decree of 9 August 1982 ordered development of an improved RT-23UTTKh, dubbed 'Molodets'. Three basing modes were to be possible using a single containerised missile: train-launched, a 'Tselina-2' road-mobile transport, or silo-based. This would be able to deploy up to ten nuclear warheads from a layered circular dispenser. Retired in 2003. More...

Associated Launch Sites
  • Plesetsk Plesetsk was the Soviet Union's northern cosmodrome, used for polar orbit launches of mainly military satellites, and was at one time the busiest launch centre in the world. The collapse of the Soviet Union put the main launch site of Baikonur in Kazakh territory. It now seems that once the Proton rocket is retired, Baikonur will be abandoned and Plesetsk will be Russia's primary launch centre. Upgrades to existing launch facilities will allow advanced versions of the Soyuz rocket and the new Angara launch vehicle to be launched from Plesetsk. Plesetsk's major drawback was the lower net payload in geosynchronous orbit from a northern latitude launch site. However Russia is planning to remove the disadvantage by looping geosynchronous satellites around the moon, using lunar gravity to make the necessary orbital plane change. More...
  • Nenoksa Primary missile testing range of the Russian Navy. Known to have been used for 22 launches from 1965 to 1997, reaching up to 1000 kilometers altitude, but the number of actual missile tests was in the hundreds. More...

RT-23 Chronology


1982 January 1 - . Launch Site: Nenoksa. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23 15Zh44. LV Configuration: RT-23 15Zh44 15Zh44.
  • Silo test - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1982 October 26 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. Launch Complex: Plesetsk LC163. Launch Pad: LC163 ShPU-2. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh60.
  • silo - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1982 November 1 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh60.
  • Test mission - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1982 November 1 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh60.
  • Test mission - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1982 December 1 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23 15Zh44. LV Configuration: RT-23 15Zh44 15Zh44.
  • Test mission - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1982 December 5 - . 01:00 GMT - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh60.
  • Test mission - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1983 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh60.
  • Test mission - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1983 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh60.
  • Test mission - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1983 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh60.
  • Test mission - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1983 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh60.
  • Test mission - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1983 May 1 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh60.
  • Test mission - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1983 September 4 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh60.
  • Test mission - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1983 November 22 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh60.
  • Test mission - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1984 January 18 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. Launch Complex: Plesetsk LC163. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23 15Zh52. LV Configuration: RT-23 15Zh52 15Zh52.
  • rail - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1985 February 27 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh61. LV Configuration: RT-23U 15Zh61 15Zh61.
  • rail - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1986 July 31 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh60. LV Configuration: RT-23U 15Zh60 15Zh60.
  • Test mission - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1987 December 22 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh61. LV Configuration: RT-23U 15Zh61 15Zh61.
  • Test mission - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1988 September 26 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh60. LV Configuration: RT-23U 15Zh60 15Zh60.
  • Test mission - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1996 November 29 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh61. LV Configuration: RT-23U 15Zh61 15Zh61.
  • rail - . Nation: Russia. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1998 December 9 - . 10:20 GMT - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh61. LV Configuration: RT-23U 15Zh61 15Zh61.
  • Test mission - . Nation: Russia. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

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