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Russia modernizes missiles in response to U.S. plans

Thursday, October 23, 2008

MOSCOW -- Russia's efforts to upgrade its missile arsenals will help counter the planned U.S. missile defense sites in Europe, a top general said Wednesday.

Russia's Strategic Missile Force chief, Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, said the military will commission a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile and modify the existing missiles.

Solovtsov said the new RS-24 missile equipped with multiple nuclear warheads will enter service next year.

"Its deployment will increase the Strategic Missile Forces' capability to penetrate missile defense systems, thus strengthening the nuclear deterrent potential of Russian strategic forces," he said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

Solovtsov said the military conducted two test launches of the RS-24 last year and will make another one before the year's end. Russian officials have said it would gradually replace Soviet-built ballistic missiles.

Solovtsov added that the military will also upgrade the existing types of missiles to fit them with decoys intended to counter the prospective U.S. missile shield.

Russia has denounced a U.S. plan to deploy a battery of 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a related missile defense radar in the Czech Republic, saying it threatened Russian security. It has dismissed the U.S. claim that the sites were intended to counter a prospective missile threat from Iran and was not aimed against Russia.

Russian officials have threatened to point nuclear missiles at the countries that will allow U.S. missile defense sites on their territory.

"We are fully confident that the Strategic Missile Forces will be capable of providing a guaranteed nuclear deterrent in the long time to come," Solovtsov said.

He said the military will maintain the Soviet-built missiles, including those that were manufactured in Ukraine. "We have agreements with Ukraine that would allow us to maintain their capability," Solovtsov said.

Russia's Strategic Missile Forces said it successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile Wednesday as part of regular efforts to check the readiness of Soviet-built missiles.

Russia's Strategic Missile Forces spokesman Alexander Vovk said the RS-18 missile was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. He said in a statement that the launch was intended to confirm the missile's reliability as part of efforts to extend the lifetime of this type of missile.

Russia's strategic forces have conducted regular test launches of Soviet-built ballistic missiles to check their performance. The military has repeatedly extended the lifetime of Soviet-built weapons as the government lacks the funds to replace them quickly with new weapons.


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