The Russian military has successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) ahead of a major military drill slated to begin in a few days.
The RS-24 Yars missile was fired from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in the northern city of Arkhangelsk, and successfully hit its target at a military range in Kura in Russia’s far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula, after flying a distance of around 6,000 kilometers (about 3,700 miles).
“The main purpose of the launch is to confirm the reliability of rockets of the same class. The warheads successfully reached their target – the Kura testing range in Kamchatka. All aims of the test were achieved,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
First tested in 2007, the thermonuclear armed missile has a range of around 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) and can carry three to six warheads.
The missile is MIRV-equipped, meaning that it could aim its thermonuclear warheads at different targets upon re-entry.
The solid-fuel rocket is an upgraded version of the Topol-M missile, and can be launched both from the ground and from a vehicle.
Upon the missile’s introduction, the US claimed that it was in violation of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between Washington and the former Soviet Union, which went into effect in 1991 and expired in 2009.
The deal was replaced by the New SATRT agreement in 2010, under which Russia and the US agreed to reduce their nuclear weapons. American officials say the Yars missile’s deployment amounts to a breach of this agreement as well.
This is while the Pentagon has recently granted contracts to American arms manufacturers to develop new ICBMs and nuclear-capable cruise missiles in a bid to replace the US Air Force’s ageing arsenal of strategic thermonuclear weapons.
Russia’s Zapad military drills
The high-profile test came days before Russia’s major “Zapad (West) 2017” military exercises, which will be jointly carried out by Belarus from 14 to 20 September in Belarus as well as in Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast and other northwestern areas.
Russia’s Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov met Petr Pavel, chairman of NATO’s Military Committee in the Azerbaijani capital Baku on Thursday, but neither side gave any details on what was discussed.
NATO, which has been amassing troops and equipment on Russia’s borders since cutting ties with the country in 2014, has accused Russia of not being clear about the details of the war games.
Alexander Fomin, the Russian deputy defense minister, said the drills would involve 12,700 troops, but NATO countries like Lithuania claim that the drills have already begun and feature as many as 100,000 soldiers.