Russia is deploying a new series of nuclear tipped missiles with warheads designed with the aid of US supercomputers. The new Russian SS-X-27 missile is being moved directly into deployment with an advanced 550 kiloton nuclear warhead made by the Arzamas-16 nuclear design bureau.
The original version of the TOPOL – mod 1 version – is designated the SS-25. This mobile missile is quite capable and can reach the US with a variety of weapons packages, including nuclear warheads of Russian design.
In early 1997 Russian Atomic energy officials (MINATOM) admitted that an IBM super-computer was purchased from Europe by MINATOM in late 1996 for $7 million. The IBM super-computer was transferred directly to the nuclear weapons center in Arzamas-16. In addition, MINATOM official admitted that that Silicon Graphics, Inc., sold four computers to Chelyabinsk-70, another Russian weapons facility in the fall of 1996 for $650,000 each.
Russia’s Ministry of Atomic Energy (MINATOM) stated the US computers would be used for nuclear stockpile maintenance and to simulate nuclear weapons tests. The rapid deployment of the Arzamas-16 nuclear SS-27 warhead appears to be the result of successful simulated Russian tests staged using the US computers.
In 1997 SOFTWAR requested all information on the export of US super computers for the use in nuclear weapons research using the Freedom of Information Act. The US Dept. of Energy responded that all responsive documents in question originated in the US Department of Commerce. The US Commerce Department initially denied access to the materials based on an invalid claim of conflict of interest against SOFTWAR. SOFTWAR threatened to take legal action and Commerce officials gave up and agreed to service the FOIA request in early 1998.
Former Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown led several trade trips to China and Russia which included major computer deals. In addition, a letter obtained from the files of Ron Brown detail his first efforts to export US super computers under the Clinton administration. The letter from NSA Director Adm. McConnell in dated November 1993 gave Brown the NSA okay to begin exports only days before President Clinton met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
Commerce officials have, to date, returned no information to SOFTWAR on the Brown super computer deals. Commerce officials have also been reported to be denying access to similar documents to Congressional investigators.
In 1997, USAF RC-135 “Cobra Ball” aircraft observed the successful test firings of the SS-27 (TOPOL-M). The successful missile firings encouraged Russian officials to begin building the SS-27 for deployment by the end of the year. The first deployment was reported to be in a SS-19 silo complex located at Tatishchevo in January of 1998.
The TOPOL is manufactured by the Moscow Institute for Thermal Technology. The new, truck mobile, SS-27 is reported by Russian officials to have Maneuverable Re-entry Vehicle (MARV) capability designed to defeat any expected US deployment of anti-ballistic missile systems. US officials noted that the SS-27 flights observed by “Cobra Ball” did not test the new reported MARV capability.
The Russian Federation accelerated deployment of the SS-27 in early 1998 by replacing several of their SS-18 Satan multi-warhead missiles in silos with the new SS-27. The SS-27 is wholly designed and produced in Russia unlike the SS-18 which was built in the Ukraine.
The Russian move has pleased Clinton administration officials who pointed out the single warhead SS-27 is being exchanged for the SS-18 which carries up to eight warheads.
Defense officials, however, are worried that the new deployment of a highly accurate, MARV warhead missile only highlights the weakness of aging US strategic systems. The mobile version of the SS-27 will be difficult to find and can be easily reloaded. The maneuvering warhead and extreme accuracy indicates the silo based SS-27s are “first strike” weapons intended to penetrate US defensive missiles which may be deployed around strategic land based – nuclear missiles.
The mobile Russian SS-27 also raises serious proliferation questions since the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology is providing the SS-27 design to China. China intends to produce the TOPOL-M missile under the designation “Dong Feng” (East Wind) DF-41. The DF-41 is expected to be deployed with Chinese manufactured nuclear warheads also designed with the aid of US super computers.
Over 46 US super computers have been exported to China. Commerce Bureau of Export Administration Director William Reinsch testified in 1997 before the Senate that US officials could not determine the location of many of the computer sold to China. The Commerce Department authorized the additional export of a US super computer in 1997 even though they were denied access to inspect the Chinese site. In addition, Chinese officials denied access in 1998 to US inspectors who wanted to verify the exported super computers were not being used for military purposes.
The SS-27 TOPOL-M has a maximum range of 6,500 miles, is 74.5 feet in length, 6.06 feet in diameter and weighs in at just over 102,000 pounds. It is listed as a three stage, solid propellant, “cold” gas launched, missile equipped with a Inertial/Stellar guidance system.