This solid-propellant design was in competition with Makeyev's liquid-propellant missile to replace the D-5/R-27 system in 667A class nuclear submarines. Development began in June 1971, with research trials of the 15P098 container-launcher being conducted at Kapustin Yar launch complex 86. The new cold-launch system used a powder gas generator behind an elastic membrane, which held the pressure until it reached the proper value to ensure the correct cold launch. The R-31 would use new high-energy solid propellant (using ammonium perchlorate and butyl rubber). NIIA Sverdlovsk developed a new method of shaping the trajectory and range of a ballistic missile using solid rockets which was applied to the new rocket. This required use of a manoeuvring final 'military' stage that could accommodate three to eight re-entry vehicles. Stage 1 of the R-31 would use four nozzles for attitude control. Stage 2 used one nozzle and two separate small-diameter power rockets for tangential velocity control. The manoeuvring stage had four nozzles. TsPB Volna dictated the dimensions of the rocket in their design of the 999 special nuclear vessel, which in turn dictated was by the government's TTZ design requirements approved by the Soviet Navy (VMF) on 26 February 1969. Development was approved by a government resolution of 1 September 1969. A further resolution of 10 June 1971 called for completion of the draft project for the missile system by February 1973. Eight variants of the missile were studied. In March 1973 all materials on the project were handed over to VMF, and the materials then passed to TsKB Volna in 1974 for final design of the Project 999 nuclear submarine. This would be equipped with 16 R-31 missiles and have a total displacement of 8900-10,000 tonnes.
R-31 stand trials were conducted at VMF test areas in 1974-1978. Arsenal originally considered flight testing of the R-31 from the RT-2 silos at LC-86 at Kapustin Yar. However after inspecting the silos and discussing the problems with the commander of the missile range, it was decided to move the trials to the Navy's launch centre at Nenoksiy. Trials of the 3M17 rocket were conducted between December 1974 and August 1979. The first tests were conducted using the P5-5M simulator at the south range. Plans were also made for 667A boats with D-5 SLBM's to be converted to 667AM's with the D-11.
First submarine-launched trials of the 3M17 from 50 m depths were conducted in Force 5 winds on 22 December 1976 at Kandalaksh Bay in the White Sea. All flight trials were completed in 1979.
In September 1980 the missile was accepted by the military and service sea trials began. The missile was in service from 1980-1990 without problems, then retired under the provisions of the SALT-2 arms limitation treaty.
The production missile used a single warhead with a variable yield of 0.5 to 1.0 MT, weighing 450 to 465 kg. However the missile was capable of being equipped with 3 warheads totalling 720 kg or 8 warheads totalling 1120 kg, with substantial reduction of range. The standard Soviet cold launch technique popped the missile to 40 to 50 m above the ocean surface before the motor ignited. The guidance and launch systems allowed launch at boat angles of 0 to 16 deg for surface launch, and 0 to 5 deg for submerged launch, in winds up to 20 m/s wind, seas up to State 8, and at any latitude between 85 deg N and 60 deg S.
Success Rate: 100.00%. Launch data is: incomplete. Standard warhead: 465 kg (1,025 lb). Maximum range: 4,200 km (2,600 mi). Number Standard Warheads: 1. Warhead yield: 500 KT. CEP: 1.40 km (0.80 mi). Boost Propulsion: Solid rocket. Cruise Thrust: 233.300 Kn (52,448 lbf). Cruise Thrust: 23,800 kgf. Stage 3 Thrust: 3.920 Kn (881 lbf). Stage 3 Thrust: 400 kgf. Initial Operational Capability: 1980.
Stage Data - R-31
AKA: RSM-45; R-31; SS-N-17; 3M17; Snipe; D-11.
Status: Retired 1990.
Gross mass: 26,900 kg (59,300 lb).
Payload: 465 kg (1,025 lb).
Height: 11.35 m (37.23 ft).
Diameter: 1.54 m (5.05 ft).
Span: 1.65 m (5.41 ft).
Thrust: 580.00 kN (130,380 lbf).
Apogee: 500 km (310 mi).
First Launch: 1974.12.01.
Last Launch: 1979.08.01.
Number: 6 .