MOSCOW: New rockets will by 2016 account for at least 80 percent of the strategic missile forces in Russia as it replaces its Soviet-era arsenal with new nuclear-capable missiles, the military said Friday.
“Plans for the development of the Russian strategic rocket forces through 2016 foresee a decrease in quantity and a transformation in quality at the same time,” Nikolai Solovstov, the commander of Russia’s strategic missile forces, told reporters.
“Rocket systems with an extended shelf life will account for roughly 20 percent, while new rocket systems for at least 80 percent of the forces,” said Colonel-General Solovtsov, quoted by the Russian news agencies.
In December, he announced that Russia would by 2020 replace its Soviet-era arsenal with new nuclear-capable intercontinental missiles capable of overcoming anti-missile defence measures by enemy states.
The costly overhaul of the missile forces comes as Russia is locked in a bitter dispute with the US over its plans to install anti-missile defence facilities in central Europe.
Russia has urged Barack Obama to drop the plans, which were devised by his predecessor George W. Bush but the new US president has said he would move forward with the missile defence shield.
Russia is working hard to upgrade its ageing missile forces and has repeatedly tested new missiles in recent months amid the controversy over the missile shield.
Solovtsov said Russia planned to conduct 14 launches of intercontinental ballistic rockets this year.
Russia’s missile arsenal still contains Soviet-era war horses like the Stiletto, the Voevoda and the Topol but the military has been seeking to phase in newer weapons.
Russia will discontinue the Topol-M but plans to keep the Voevoda-M, the “world’s most powerful rocket,” in service until 2019, Solovtsov said.
He added it was important for Russia to continue to upgrade its strategic missiles to ensure stability in the world.
“Quality enhancement of the components of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces will be required to maintain the necessary balance of forces in solving the task of nuclear containment,” he said.