Russian strategic forces carried out a large-scale surprise military drill on Wednesday, launching four nuclear missiles that were closely monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies, U.S. officials said.
The drill began around 9:00 am ET and included the test launch of two land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and two submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).
The test firings were unusual because of the number of missiles fired at one time, said officials who discussed some details of the drill on condition of anonymity.
Mark Schneider, an arms control specialist, said Russian reports of the exercises described the test firings as a “a major strategic nuclear exercise involving a nuclear war.” The exercises also involved Russian President Vladimir Putin as a commander.
Schneider, a policy analyst at the National Institute for Public Policy, said the last similar Russian strategic exercise took place two weeks before the 2012 presidential election and were described as the first time Putin personally tested an automated communication and management system for nuclear forces.
“Minimum deterrence advocates like to ignore these exercises,” Schneider said. “I think they are very important and point out the need to maintain a strong triad” of missiles, submarines, and bombers.
The missiles test fired were identified by the officials with their NATO code names, including a silo-based SS-18 and a road-mobile SS-25, along with the two submarine-launched missiles, an SS-N-18 and SS-N-23.
The SS-18 is Russia’s largest land-based ICBM with a range of up to 10,000 miles and up to 10 warheads, or multiple, independently-targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs).
The SS-25 is a road-mobile missile capable of launching up to four MIRVs and has a range of up to 6,200 miles.
The SS-N-18 Stingray missile can be equipped with up to seven warheads and is carried on Delta III missile submarines. It has a range of up to 5,000 miles.
The SS-N-23 can carry up to 10 MIRVs and has a range of up to 5,000 miles. It is deployed on Delta IV missile submarines.
A Kremlin spokesman in Moscow said the “surprise check” of nuclear forces, aerospace defenses, and naval and strategic aviation were ordered by “Commander-in-Chief, President Vladimir Putin.”
Full article: Moscow Conducts Large-Scale Nuclear Attack Drill (Washington Free Beacon)