Russia Fields New Mobile
Topol-M Nuclear Missiles -
6200 Mile Range
MOSCOW (AP) -- The military declared 10 newly designed nuclear missiles ready for combat Sunday in its first deployment of the Topol-M, developed to maintain Russia's position as a global nuclear power.
The single-warhead Topol-M, whose range has been reported to exceed 6,200 miles, will be the new heart of Russia's missile forces, and 40 are expected to be built by the end of 2000 taking the place of heavier, multiple-warhead missiles. The missile is designed to be fired from a vehicle, and its mobility makes it more safe from preemptive strikes than silo-based missiles.
The 10 Topol-M's were deployed in the Saratov region, about 450 miles southeast of Moscow, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
The deployment was a major step for Russia's cash-strapped government, which doesn't have enough money to maintain all its armed forces, and decided to concentrate defense spending on developing the missile.
"This is a very important event, because even in the difficult financial conditions of 1998 we have managed to find funds for financing this top priority area," said Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, according to ITAR-Tass.
Russia is facing its worst economic crisis since the Soviet collapse.
A parliament committee is drafting a bill that would guarantee funding to the strategic missile forces until 2010, regardless of the country's economic situation, the Interfax news agency reported.
The measure would ensure that Russia maintains nuclear parity with the West, according to Roman Popkovich, chairman of the Defense Committee of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament.