In his State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly on March 1, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia’s Defense Ministry had launched an active phase jointly with enterprises of the rocket and space industry to test a new missile system with the Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
The RS-28 Sarmat is the Russian promising silo-based missile complex with the heavy liquid-propellant ICBM capable of carrying nuclear charges. Russia has been developing the Sarmat since the 2000s to replace the R-36M2 Voyevoda ICBM operational in the country’s Strategic Missile Force since 1988.
The missile complex was named after the nomadic Sarmatian tribes who lived in the 6th-4th centuries BC on the territory of present-day Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.
The state contract for the Sarmat R&D work was concluded on July 21, 2011. On the day of the 54th anniversary of the Strategic Missile Force on December 17, 2013, Strategic Missile Force Commander Colonel-General Sergei Karakayev officially announced for the first time about the system’s creation.
On May 31, 2014, Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov told reporters that the heavy missile was “a unique weapon,” which the United States lacked. He specified that “by its lifting capacity, it is capable of carrying such means of breaching anti-missile defense and using such a powerful propellant that it will be able to fly through the North and South Poles.”
According to the deputy defense minister, the missile will be furnished with “maneuvering warheads.” Later, on February 21, 2015, he said that the missile would be developed in several modifications while the weight of the deliverable warhead would make up 10 tonnes.
The Sarmat ICBM prototype was ready in the autumn of 2015 while the timeframe of pop-up tests at the Plesetsk spaceport (the northern Arkhangelsk Region) was numerously rescheduled due to the unpreparedness of the silo-based launcher. On December 27, 2017, the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets reported about the first successful pop-up test of the missile prototype.
The Krasnoyarsk Machine-Building Plant (part of the Makeyev State Rocket Center) is the principal enterprise for the production of Sarmat ICBM prototypes.
In 2013, Strategic Missile Force Commander Colonel-General Sergei Karakayev said that the new missile complex was due to arrive for the Strategic Missile Force in 2018-2020. In May 2016, a TASS source in the defense sector said that the Sarmat would be accepted for service in late 2018.
Before the Sarmat is accepted for service, Russian defense manufacturers are taking measures to extend the service life of the R-36M2 Voyevoda missile (according to the data of open sources, Russia’s Strategic Missile Force operates 46 such ICBMs).
In his State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly on March 1, 2018, President Putin said that with its weight of 200 tonnes, the Sarmat ICBM has a short active flight path, which complicates its intercept by ABM systems. According to Putin, the new missile’s range, the number and the yield of its warheads are greater than those of the Voyevoda ICBM.
The Russian president said that the Sarmat would be furnished with a wide range of large-yield nuclear warheads (including hypersonic capabilities) and the most advanced systems of breaching ABM defenses.