Soviet rail-based train ballistic missile

The RT-23 (NATO reporting name SS-24 Scalpel) was a Soviet ICBM developed and produced by the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau before 1991. It is cold launched, and comes in silo and railway car based variants. It is a three stage missile that uses solid fuel and thrust vectoring for the first stage, with 10 MIRV warheads, each with 550 kT yield.


The missile was the culmination of a major Soviet effort to develop a medium solid-fueled missile with multiple basing modes: silo-based and rail-based versions were deployed, and a road-mobile version was considered but rejected. This made for a much more survivable ICBM, as the rail-based missiles could move around the rail network and thus be difficult to detect and track. The new missile was to replace the older liquid-fueled SS-19 missiles which were entirely silo-based. Its US counterpart was the MX missile.
The missile was tested through the 1980s and began to be deployed in 1987. Its production facilities were located in Ukraine. After the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Ukraine had no interest in producing ICBMs and so the production of the missile came to an end. A typical set of missile launch trains were composed of three M62 class locomotives (a standard diesel electric locomotive of the period), followed by generating power car, command car, support car, and three missile launch vehicles, with a total of nine-car train set. The frontmost locomotive is driven by three officers, and the two other engines right behind the front locomotive are driven by two enlisted personnel each. The missile launcher has a shape of a refrigerator car, and the service cars are those that were converted from passenger carriages.
Just before the breakup of the USSR, 92 missiles were operational, 36 based in stationary silos and 56 rail-based. The 36 silo-based missiles located in Ukraine were deactivated by mid 1996, disassembled and put into storage awaiting decision on a feasible disposition method, but the 56 missiles in Russia remained in service. The missile was to be banned under the provisions of START II, but that treaty was never ratified. The 10 silo-based missiles in Russia were deactivated around 2000. After 2000 the rail-based missiles were also gradually withdrawn from service, with the remaining 15 decommissioned in August 2005. Elimination of the last SS-24 ICBM in Russia was in April 2008.

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