Russia has come out and said that their Strategic Missile Troops plan on testing no less than 16 intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2016, double that of last year. Some of which will be road-mobile TOPOL missiles like the one shown blasting off in the video below.
The Russian Ministry of Defense told Russia’s TASS news agency the following:
“For 2016 we planned 16 test launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles, including flight test procedures for advanced weapons, and control of the technical readiness of missile systems that entered service. The number of test launches should increase next year.”
All this is part of a multi-pronged effort to upgrade Russia’s nuclear arsenal and enhance its readiness. This includes the introduction of new missiles and launch systems, including the eventual return of rail-borne ICBMs. The Russian Navy, with its new RSM-56 Bulava ballistic missile, and Air Force, with its new KH-102 nuclear cruise missile, are also part of this imitative.
The U.S. is also ramping up its nuclear modernization efforts with a new bomber, a new ballistic missile submarine, a new air-dropped nuclear smart-bomb, and either a major modernization or replacement of the silo-based Minuteman missile system is also in the works. But these projects all come at a very high cost. The Congressional Budget Office posits that the price of maintaining and upgrading the nuclear arsenal just through 2024 will be a whopping $348 billion dollars.
Finding the money for new stealthy long-range bombers, new missile subs and a major reworking of the Minuteman system will be a huge challenge, especially considering competing priorities. The LGM-30 Minuteman system especially, which is based around what can be considered to be ancient technology nowadays, has been the “red headed stepchild” of America’s nuclear triad. This is nothing new really.
Since the introduction of reliable submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), land-based ICBMs have been especially challenged when it comes to receiving funding. The end of the Cold War only exacerbated the situation. Some have even called for the elimination of the land-based ICBM leg of the Nuclear Triad all together. Finding the money for a really deep upgrade, yet a lone a replacement for these missile, will be a challenge.
It is really amazing how things have changed geopolitically in the last couple of years. Seeing so much money being dumped into nuclear weaponry is eyebrow raising to say the least, and it is just one more saddening sign that we have entered into another frigid period with Russia.
Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.