Encyclopedia Astronautica
RT-23U 15Zh61


Ukrainian intercontinental ballistic missile. A decree of 9 August 1982 ordered development of an improved RT-23UTTKh, dubbed 'Molodets'. Three basing modes were to be possible using a single containerised missile: train-launched, a 'Tselina-2' road-mobile transport, or silo-based. This would be able to deploy up to ten nuclear warheads from a layered circular dispenser. Retired in 2003.

A decree of 9 August 1982 ordered development of an improved RT-23UTTKh, dubbed 'Molodets'. Three basing modes were to be possible using a single containerised missile: train-launched, a 'Tselina-2' road-mobile transport, or silo-based. This would be able to deploy up to ten nuclear warheads from a layered circular dispenser. The draft project for the 15Zh60 train-launched version was completed in September 1984. In order to improve accuracy of the train-based version, it was decided to use navigation signals electrically relayed through the tracks.

Development of the train-based version involved tremendous technical challenges. The train wagon had to handle the tremendous 200 tonne weight of the missile in its container, as well as the structural stress and rebound of launch of a 100 tonne missile. A split roof on the launch wagons allowed the missile container to be raised to a vertical position. Then the cold launch mortar blew the missile 30 m into the sky before the first stage motor ignited. The missile guidance system had to ensure that the missile exhaust did not strike critical areas of the train.

32 flight trials launches of the train-launched missile were conducted from Plesetsk between 27 February 1985 and 22 December 1987. The first regiment was formed on 20 October 1987 at Kostroma. A regiment consisted of a single train of 17 wagons, which included three launch wagons, a command wagon, a wagon with a power generator, an autonomous life support system, and living quarters, and a navigation support wagon. The train was designed to operate for up to two months without resupply, at distances of up to 1500 km from its logistic home base. In times of tension the trains were parked in railway tunnels for both blast protection and to hide them from enemy reconnaissance satellites.

By 1988 six to seven regiments, a total of about 20 launchers, had been deployed to Kostroma. The train-launched missile was formally accepted for service in December 1988, and the entire train system on 28 November 1989. The special train P-450 completed life verification tests of the train's systems and missile in December 1991.

The collapse of the Soviet Union found the manufacturer in newly-independent Ukraine, but the Russians continued use of the unique capability. By 1999 there were rocket divisions at Kostroma, Bershet, and Gladkaya, each composed of four regiments, or 36 launchers. They were moved around constantly, but normally parked on rail sidings at least 20 km from each other. However under the terms of the START-2 Treaty, all mobile RT-23's were to be destroyed by 2003.

Standard warhead: 4,050 kg (8,920 lb). Maximum range: 10,000 km (6,000 mi). Number Standard Warheads: 10. Warhead yield: 400 KT. CEP: 0.21 km (0.13 mi). Boost Propulsion: Solid rocket. Initial Operational Capability: 1987.

AKA: RS-22B; SS-24 Mod 2; 15Zh61; Molodets; PL-04; Scalpel.
Gross mass: 104,500 kg (230,300 lb).
Payload: 4,050 kg (8,920 lb).
Height: 23.30 m (76.40 ft).
Diameter: 2.40 m (7.80 ft).
Span: 2.40 m (7.80 ft).
Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).
First Launch: 1985.02.27.
Last Launch: 1998.12.09.
Number: 4 .

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
See also
  • RT-23 The only rail-based ICBM ever deployed. Developed by Yuzhnoye in the Ukraine was protracted, but understandable given the huge technical challenges. Twelve years of design and testing was followed by deployment from 1988. All were retired by 2003. More...
  • missile Guided self-propelled military weapon (as opposed to rocket, an unguided self-propelled weapon). More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • Yuzhnoye Ukrainian manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. Yangel Design Bureau, Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine. More...

Associated Launch Sites
  • Plesetsk Plesetsk was the Soviet Union's northern cosmodrome, used for polar orbit launches of mainly military satellites, and was at one time the busiest launch centre in the world. The collapse of the Soviet Union put the main launch site of Baikonur in Kazakh territory. It now seems that once the Proton rocket is retired, Baikonur will be abandoned and Plesetsk will be Russia's primary launch centre. Upgrades to existing launch facilities will allow advanced versions of the Soyuz rocket and the new Angara launch vehicle to be launched from Plesetsk. Plesetsk's major drawback was the lower net payload in geosynchronous orbit from a northern latitude launch site. However Russia is planning to remove the disadvantage by looping geosynchronous satellites around the moon, using lunar gravity to make the necessary orbital plane change. More...

Associated Stages
  • 15D339 Solid propellant rocket stage. Loaded mass 25,000 kg. Thrust 1,050.00 kN. More...
  • R-39-1 Solid propellant rocket stage. Loaded mass 53,700 kg. Thrust 2,060.00 kN. More...
  • RT-23-3 N2O4/UDMH propellant rocket stage. Loaded mass 15,000 kg. Thrust 206.00 kN. More...

RT-23U 15Zh61 Chronology


1985 February 27 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh61. LV Configuration: RT-23U 15Zh61 15Zh61.
  • rail - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1987 December 22 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh61. LV Configuration: RT-23U 15Zh61 15Zh61.
  • Test mission - . Nation: USSR. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1996 November 29 - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh61. LV Configuration: RT-23U 15Zh61 15Zh61.
  • rail - . Nation: Russia. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

1998 December 9 - . 10:20 GMT - . Launch Site: Plesetsk. LV Family: RT-23. Launch Vehicle: RT-23U 15Zh61. LV Configuration: RT-23U 15Zh61 15Zh61.
  • Test mission - . Nation: Russia. Agency: RVSN. Apogee: 1,000 km (600 mi).

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