Russia has started design works to create a new railroad-based missile system to replace weapons destroyed in the mid-2000s under the old START treaty and are now allowed by the “New START”.
The design bureau that developed Russia’s most modern ballistic missiles the Bulava, Topol and Yars, has started research and development of the new project – the railway car based ICBM – Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov told the press on Tuesday.
Currently work is at a primary stage and does not require significant investment. The overall costs to design a completely new railway-based missile has not yet been determined, he added.
If complete and launched into production, the missile would replace the RT-24 system, also known as SS-24 Scalpel – the intercontinental weapon disguised as an ordinary freight train, which made its detection and preemptive destruction extremely difficult.
Russia decommissioned its railway car based missiles in 2005 and destroyed all the systems by 2007 as part of the START II treaty on nuclear arms reduction with the US. The ‘New START’ treaty (which is also called START III in Russia) that came into force in 2011 does not limit the use of railway car based systems and allows Russia to restart production.
The move could be seen as Russia’s reply to the continuing development of the global missile defense system by the US. Russia has opposed the move and demanded legally-binding guarantees that the missile system will not be used against its forces (legal guarantees would allow Russian monitors to inspect the missile defense stations). The US says the system is planned to counter the possible attack from ‘rogue states’ such as Iran and North Korea, but offers only political guarantees, leaving Russia in the dark concerning the particular details of the system.
The standoff has already led to statements that Russia could quit the New START treaty if no mutually acceptable agreement is reached on missile defense. However, Russian officials repeatedly said that such a turn of events is extremely undesirable.
The United States insist on its position, and it is reported that the missile defense issue was the main topic of the personal message that President Barak Obama passed to Vladimir Putin last week. However, Russian diplomatic sources again stated that Moscow was not happy with the suggestions made in the message and the there was no movement over the missile defense problem.