The single-warhead RT-2UTTH Topol-M is an advanced version of the silo-based and mobile Topol intercontinental ballistic missile. While the SS-25 Topol is generally similar to the American Minuteman-2, the more sophisticated SS-27 Topol-M is comparable to the American Minuteman-3. The Topol-M is 22.7 meters (75 feet) long and has a diameter of 1.95 meters (6 feet 3 inches). The missile weighs 47.2 metric tons and has a range of 11,000 kilometers (6,900 miles). The solid-propellant three-stage Topol-M missile complex, with a standardized (silo and mobile) missile, is to become the foundation of the Russian strategic nuclear forces in the 21st century. It is planned to accommodate Topol-M both on self-propelled launchers as well as in silos. High survivability of the mobile complex is achieved by the capability of off-road movement, comprising of continuous change in location and of a missile launch from any point along the movement route.
The Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering (MIT) State Enterprise is the only plant in Russia building these missiles today. The modernized 45-ton Topol-M is the first strategic missile to be built by Russia without the participation of Ukraine or other CIS countries. The first test firing of a Topol-M took place on December 20, 1994. The flight and design testing of the Topol-M was successfully completed by 1995, and joint flight-testing is continuing, leading to a decision to commence series production. All the launches have been successful, but large-scale serial production has not started due the acute capital shortfalls experienced by the Russian government. In July 1997 the fourth launch successful of a Topol-M ICBM was made from the Strategic Missile Forces' Plesetsk State Test Site. By September 1999 the eighth test of the Topol-M missile had been taken place. The missile was launched from Plesetsk, north of Moscow, and landed at the Kura testing site on Kamchatka. On February 10th 2000, Russia successfully completed the tenth test flight of the Topol-M. The missile was launched from the Plesetsk cosmodrome to a target to a military base in Kura on the Kamchatka peninsula in the Russian Far East approximately 8,000 kilometers away. In September of 2000, Russia test-fired another Topol-M rocket. The SS-27 was fired from Plesetsk Arctic base in northern Russia to its target in the Russian Far East approximately 4,000 km away. In this 12th test, the missile was fired from a mobile launcher, rather than from a silo.
As previously stated, the state of the Russian economic has had serious effects on Russian military expenditures. As a result, work on the new Topol-M ICBM is lagging seriously behind its initial timetable. Russian defense financing has reportedly provided that some 250-300 Topol-M missiles would be in service by 2003. A total of 1.5 trillion rubles (at that time the exchange rate approximately 6000 rubles to the dollar) were included in the 1997 budget for the development of the Topol-M missile complexes. Under START II Russian Missile Troops are permitted to have 300 Topol RS-12M mobile missiles and the RVSN may acquire two Topol-M regiments annually up to 2001, which will cost 3.7 billion new rubles. The Strategic Missile Force plans to deploy mobile Topol-M missile systems at the end of 2002 or early in 2003. A total of R700 billion would be required to place 450 Topol-M missiles in service by 2005 to maintain parity under START II. But the present 55 percent funding will only permit production of, at the most, 10-15 missiles at this facility each year. As a result, Strategic Missile Troops will likely only have approximately 350-400 ICBM warheads, not the 800-900 which are permited within the framework of the START II Treaty. On 15 April 1998 Acting Prime Minister Sergey Kiriyenko approved a schedule of monthly budget appropriations for the Topol-M, which he noted would make up the core of Russia's strategic nuclear forces.
In December 1997 after four test launches, the first two Topol-M systems were put on a trial alert with the Tatischevo Taman Division in the Saratov region. By late July 1998 two more Topol-M launch sites had been completed and were awaiting acceptance trials. Russia put a regiment of 10 Topol-M missiles on duty in 1998 by which the Strategic Rocket Forces had carried out 6 successful test launches. A second regiment of another 10 missiles entered service in December 1999. A third regiment, of 10 Topol-M missiles was deployed in 2000. On October 2002 strategic missile troops also fired an SS-27 land-based missile from the Plesetsk training launch site. That missile landed at the Kamchatka impact range.
The Topol-M missile system is still being commissioned in the Russian strategic nuclear forces' grouping regardless of whether heavy missiles stand down from combat alert duty or not. The Topol-M ICBM grouping is intended to will comprise an equal number of mobile and silo-launched missiles. Some 90 of the 360 launch silos vacated by the RS-20 ICBM's, which will stand down from combat alert, need to be converted for the Topol-M. Apart from Saratov Oblast the Topol-M systems will be deployed in Valday, the southern Urals, and the Altay.
The START II ratified by the Russian Duma in September 2000, calls for Russia to replace its MIRV SS-18 missiles with single warhead, Topol-M type, missiles. Although deployed with a single warhead, the Topol-M could easily be converted into a multiple-warhead missile, which is prohibited within the framework of START II. Based on its throw weight, the Topol-M missiles could be transformed into missiles with multiple reentry vehicles [MIRV's] carrying between 3-6 missiles. The warheads could be taken from some of those ground-based and naval missiles which will be withdrawn from the order of battle in coming years. The Topol-M can carry a maneuverable warhead, which was tested in the summer of 1998. Topol-M also has a shorter engine-burn time, to minimize satellite detection on launch.
Russia deployed the first batch of ten Topol-Ms in December 1998 and deployed 20 other missiles in two batches over the next two years. Due to funding constraints the fourth batch of Topol-Ms were not deployed until 21 December 2003 when ten more missiles were commissioned Tatishchevo missile base in the central Saratov region.
In November 2004 Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that Russia expected to test-fire a mobile version of its Topol-M ballistic missile in 2004, with production of the new weapon to be commissioned in 2005.
As of 01 April 2005 Kommersant reported that the Strategic Missile Force of Russia had 496 ICBMs, including 226 silo-launched (86 heavy missiles R-36MUTTH and R-36M2 Voevoda, 10 medium missiles UR-100NUTTH, and 40 light missiles RS-12M2 Topol-M) and 270 mobile ground-launched missiles RS-12M Topol. By 2010, the Force may have no more than 313 ICBMs, including 154 silo-launched (40 R-36M2 Voevoda, 50 UR-100NUTTH, and 64 RS-12M2 Topol M), and 159 mobile ground-launched missiles (144 RS-12M Topol and 15 RS-12M1 Topol M). The 270 mobile ground-launched solid-fuel missiles RS-12M Topol (SS-25 Sickle in NATO classification) may be slashed to 144 in five years. At the same time, 89 new Topol-M missiles (64 RS-12M2 and 15 RS-12M1) are to be put on combat duty, but this is nearly two times fewer than the number of ICBMs to be slashed (136). The number of warheads on the ICBMs will be reduced from 1,770 to 923. [upon close inspection these numbers don't exactly add up and are internally inconsistent, based on standard warhead loading assumptions]
On 15 December 2006 Colonel-General Nikolai Solovtsov, commander or Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, said the Force was set to start re-equipping its single-warhead mobile Topol-M (SS-27) intercontinental ballistic missile systems with multiple re-entry vehicles. Solovtsov said: "We will begin to equip the Topol-M mobile missile system with multiple re-entry vehicles in a few years."
By the end of 2006 Russia had five missile regiments equipped with silo-based Topol-M missiles, and one regiment equipped with mobile Topol-M systems. The total number of Topol-M ICBMs, including three silo-based systems to be deployed at the Tatishchevo base, will reach 48 by the end of 2006r, according to the Strategic Missile Forces Command.
President Vladimir Putin has said the deployment of mobile Topol-M systems contributes a great deal to Russia's national security. The first regiment of Topol-M mobile ICBMs was put on active duty in the Ivanovo region in Central Russia in early December 2006. "This is a significant step forward in improving our defense capabilities," he said while inspecting the regiment 14 December 2006. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in 2006 that Russia was planning to purchase 69 silo-based and mobile Topol-M ballistic missile systems in the next decade.