R-36M UTTKh (R-36MU) ICBM: Doomsday weapon
Above: The liftoff of the R-36M UTTKh rocket converted into a Dnepr space launcher.
History of the R-36M UTTKh missile
On August 16, 1976, the Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of Ministers USSR issued a resolution for the so-called UTTKh modernization of the R-36M missile. (UTTKh stands for Improved Tactical and Technical Characteristics). A primary goal of modernization was further expansion of the missile's strike range and the increase in the survivability of the vehicle and its launch complex under conditions of the incoming nuclear attack. According to official specifications, a single R-36M UTTKh missile could strike 10 various targets, including large population centers, as well as small military targets, spread over an area of 300,000 square kilometers.
The R-36M UTTKh also featured a new payload module with 10 improved MIRV warheads designated 15F162 and equipped with a more powerful A134GA nuclear charge. According to other reports, the R-36M UTTKh carried from 5 to 8 nuclear warheads.
The most significant upgrade of the missile itself included a brand-new upper stage. Its exotic design featured deployable engines, which "pulled" a two-deck container with nuclear-carrying reentry vehicles. The new design allowed gentle release of the MIRV warheads, known as "zero impulse," which increased the weapon's accuracy.
A standard payload fairing on the missile is known to consist of three sections: the lower segement, which remained attached to the upper stage; the middle segment shaped as a ring; and the upper section, which consists of two vertical segements, which separate with the help of pirotechnic devices, and fall in the same impact sites with the first stage. (234)
The launch infrastructure for the R-36M UTTKh missil included the 17P718 launch complex and the 15V155 command post with increased survivability and more reliable communications systems.
R-36M UTTKh testing and deployment
The UTTKh version of the R-36M missile, also known as R-36MU, received a new industrial code -- 15A18. Its first test launch took place in October 1977 and a total of 19 launches took place, two of which failed, during the test flight phase.
The R-36M UTTKh missile was formally adopted into the Soviet arsenal on December 17, 1980. In total, it flew 62 missions, 56 of which were successful. (98)
According to later sources, the R-36M UTTKh flew 35 suborbital missions, including four failed shots, before the inception of the Dnepr program, where the vehicle would be used for orbital flights. During the initial test program, all but one missile targeted the Kura impact range in the Kamchatka Peninsula (235):
Launches of the R-36M UTTKh missiles after the initial test flight program was completed (234):
Of these launches, during 1981-1987, R-36M UTTKh flew four missions from the grounds of the 59th rocket division deployed in Kartaly, near town of Lokomotivny in Chelyabinsk Region:
Of these launches, first three were training missions and the last was a demo mission during the chief inspection of the division by the Ministry of Defense. (234)
At least 162 of such missiles were known to be deployed during 1979-1983.
In 2005, Nikolai Solovtsov, the commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, said that R-36M UTTKh, would remain in service until 2007-2009. In the meantime, some of R-36M UTTKh rockets would be converted into space vehicles within the Dnepr program.
Yuri Smetanin, one of the developers of the R-36M missile poses with a scale model of the rocket. Credit: KB Yuzhnoe
Scale model of the R-36M UTTKh missile with multiple warhead section. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak
The R-36M UTTKh missile blasts off from Baikonur in 1988. Credit: KB Yuzhnoe
Launch of the R-36M-based rocket from Site 109 in Baikonur. Click to enlarge. Credit: KB Yuzhnoe
The power distributor of the R-36M UTTKh missile. Copyright © 2001 Anatoly Zak