The Russian Strategic Missile Force Commander, Colonel General Sergey Karakayev, has confirmed the retirement of the Topol intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) from the Russian Armed Forces.
General Karakayev’s statement highlighted the completion of the rearming process by the Yars mobile ground-based missile systems. He emphasized the decommissioning of the Topol missile complex, signaling the end of an era for this intercontinental-range, solid-propellant ballistic missile system. Karakayev added that efforts also involved enhancing the silo-based group, notably increasing the number of missile complexes entering combat alert duty in the Kozelsky missile formation in the Kaluga Region.
The Topol, known by its NATO designation SS-25 “Sickle,” was a cornerstone of Russia’s strategic defense arsenal, boasting a range of over 11,000 km. Developed based on its predecessors, the Temp-2S and Pioneer road-mobile missiles, the Topol system has been a significant component of Russia’s nuclear deterrence capabilities.
The replacement for the Topol missiles comes in the form of the Yars intercontinental ballistic missile, equipped with Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) warheads.
Some of the retired Topol ICBMs are slated for reuse in civilian capacities as Start-1 carrier rockets. Chief Designer of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology, Yuri Solomonov, indicated plans to potentially repurpose these missiles for launches within the Start-1 carrier rocket program. This reconfiguration could potentially serve two programs focused on developing clusters of small-size satellites, exploiting the convenience of Start-1 rockets as launch vehicles.
The Start-1, a light-class solid-propellant carrier rocket derived from the Topol ICBM, has a lift-off weight of 47 tonnes and the capability to deliver payloads exceeding 500 kg to low Earth orbit. Previously, Russia conducted seven Start rocket launches from the spaceports of Plesetsk and Svobodny (currently Vostochny) between 1993 and 2006.
In 1999, open sources reported the presence of 360 Topol launching systems distributed across ten divisions within the Russian strategic missile forces.