On December 28, 1972, a complex with an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with a solid propellant engine was put into service in the USSR.

The ammunition was named RT-2P (RS-12) and became one of the most successful developments of the legendary OKB-1 (RKKA Energia named after S.P. Korolev).

As noted in the materials of the enterprise, this weapon has seriously affected "the maintenance of parity in the nuclear missile competition" and strengthened the security of our country.

According to experts, the RT-2P has become the first domestic solid-propellant ICBM with high technical and operational characteristics for its time.

“The appearance of the RT-2P marked the transition to a qualitatively new technology as part of the Strategic Missile Forces.

The adoption of this ICBM testified that the Soviet industry had overcome the problems that hindered the development of solid fuel topics, ”said Dmitry Kornev, founder of the Military Russia portal, in a conversation with RT.

As the expert explained, the first solid-propellant ICBM adopted by the USSR was the RT-2.

The rocket turned out to be not entirely successful - it had a significant number of technical and operational shortcomings and, in general, was noticeably inferior to the American counterpart Minuteman II.

“The RT-2 was put into service in 1968, but the Soviet Union understood the need to improve it.

The result of these works, in fact, was the RT-2P, ”said the interlocutor of RT.

The new ICBM received improved three-stage engines and means of overcoming missile defense, a more accurate inertial control system and a more powerful warhead.

In addition, specialists from VNIIEF (now RFNC-VNIIEF) have developed a new compact nuclear warhead for the RT-2P.

  • RT-2P missiles at the parade in Moscow

  • © Press service of the design bureau "Arsenal"

Serial production of rockets was launched at the Perm Chemical Equipment Plant.

In the part of the Strategic Missile Forces, the RT-2P came to replace the first solid-fuel models.

ICBMs were in service with the USSR until the mid-1990s.

The maximum firing range of the RT-2P was 10-10.2 thousand km, weight - 51.9 tons, length with warhead - 21.2 m. The missile was the carrier of a thermonuclear warhead with a capacity of 750 kilotons.

Overcome backlog

All three stages of the RT-2P were equipped with PAL-17/7 mixed fuel based on butyl rubber.

As they say on the website of the Red Army Energia, it was distinguished by high plasticity, did not have "noticeable aging and cracking during storage."

PAL-17/7 was developed by the NII-9 team.

This enterprise was established in 1958 by decision of the USSR government.

In 1966, it was transformed into the Altai Research Institute of Chemical Technology (now - Federal Research and Production Center "Altai").

It was to this institution that the authorities entrusted the task of creating high-energy and highly elastic fuel, as well as large-sized charges from it for mounting directly into the engine housing.

Previously, solid propellants were made from ballistic powders.

For example, such fuel was used in the RT-1 rocket, providing a range of only 2.5 thousand km.

At the same time, already in the 1950s, the United States produced solid-propellant missiles with a significantly greater firing distance.

As military expert Yuri Knutov said in an interview with RT, the Americans began to deal with "solid fuel topics" at the dawn of the nuclear missile race.

However, the Soviet Union relied on the development of ballistic missiles with liquid engines.

“The lag that emerged at the end of the 1950s could become critical.

I think that there was a certain inertia: it was believed that only liquid-propellant rockets with a higher specific impulse were able to effectively solve strategic problems, ”said Knutov.

As the expert explained, liquid fuel engines are significantly more energetic than solid fuel models.

This quality allows you to install a significant amount of payload on the carrier: warheads, means of overcoming missile defense and various electronic equipment.

However, a significant drawback of liquid rockets is the complexity of operation.

  • Launch of the Topol ICBM

  • © Ministry of Defense of Russia

“Liquid fuel is a priori whimsical and less safe.

The first Soviet ICBMs were completely refueled with fuel and oxidizer immediately before launch.

It was a very labor intensive process.

He demanded compliance with strict safety standards, and even reduced combat effectiveness, ”Knutov emphasized.

However, the efforts of NII-9 and other specialized enterprises of the USSR managed to overcome the backlog from the United States in solid-propellant ballistic missiles.

The main merit of the institute is the use of plasticized high molecular weight butyl rubber as a fuel-binding component.

In the future, to increase the energy potential, changes were constantly made to the composition of solid fuel.

According to open data, such components as octogen, ammonium salt of dinitramide, aluminum hydride were used.

According to Dmitry Kornev, the composition of solid fuel in Soviet ballistic missiles has been constantly improved.

These works, as the expert suggests, continue to this day, but information about them is classified.

“The combat effectiveness of a rocket depends to a large extent on the quality of solid fuel.

Therefore, we can conclude that work on solid fuels has almost never stopped and is going on very intensively today, ”says Kornev.

According to the interlocutor of RT, scientific and technological thought in this area is developing in order to increase the energy of solid-propellant rockets and combat their "aging".

“For all their advantages, solid-propellant rockets have a shorter operational life than rockets with rocket engines.

However, there is nothing critical in this.

Moreover, as practice shows, solid-propellant rockets can be in a completely normal technical condition for more than 15-20 years, that is, even after the warranty period has expired, ”the expert noted.

"Poplar", "Yars", "Mace"

As experts noted, the advent of the RT-2P and progress in improving solid fuel allowed the Soviet, and then the Russian industry, to create a wide range of highly efficient ICBMs and medium-range ballistic missiles.

In particular, the well-known strategic self-propelled complex RT-2PM Topol with a range of up to 10,000 km became an upgraded version of the RT-2P.

This weapon was developed by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Engineering (MIT).

The system was adopted by the Strategic Missile Forces on December 1, 1988.

In 1997, the more advanced RT-2PM2 Topol-M officially entered the arsenal of the Strategic Missile Forces.

Unlike the Soviet strategic complexes, it was developed by MIT without the participation of the Ukrainian side.

Rocket fuel for the RT-2PM2 rocket was developed at the Lyubertsy Research and Production Center for Dual Technologies Soyuz.

“In the RT-2PM2 ICBMs, new solid fuels of increased energy were used, the lightest possible design due to the use of high-strength organoplastics of the hull and propulsion systems, and special protective coatings,” the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation says in the materials.

Since 2010, RT-2PM2s have been replaced by more efficient Yars systems with RS-24 ICBMs in silo and mobile versions.

The main feature of this complex is a short active flight segment, which ensures its high survivability.

Of the medium-range solid-propellant nuclear self-propelled guns, the Temp-2S and Pioneer were in service with the USSR.

But both complexes did not last long, as they fell under the prohibition clauses of SALT-2 (1979) and the INF Treaty (1987).

  • Mobile complex "Pioneer" with a solid-propellant ballistic missile

  • © Ministry of Defense of Russia

“Solid fuel made it possible to create different types of “lightweight” nuclear weapons: these are various mobile land systems, the Molodets railway complex, ballistic missiles for submarines, including the modern Bulava,” said Dmitry Kornev.

According to Yuri Knutov, the USSR and Russia as a whole competently disposed of the possibilities of the "solid fuel theme".

The expert also considers it important that our country has preserved and continues to develop the LRE school.

“The rapid development of the solid-propellant direction did not lead to the abandonment of liquid-propellant ICBMs.

And as a result, the USSR and the Russian Federation to a large extent managed to level the problems of production and operation of this type of equipment.

Proof of this can be called the Sarmat complex, which is amazing in its characteristics, which will soon be put on combat duty by the Strategic Missile Forces, ”concluded Knutov.