Strategic Rocket Forces
In the Soviet era, the strategic rocket forces (SRF) were established as the elite service of the nation's military because they have the vital mission of operating long- and medium-range missiles with nuclear warheads. They remained so in the mid-1990s. In 1996 the SRF had about 100,000 troops, of which about half were conscripts; the SRF has the highest proportion of well-educated officers among the armed services. The SRF also is the only service with an active force modernization program.
Russia's report for the CFE Treaty indicated the existence of ten SRF missile bases within the European scope of the treaty, including sites at Plesetsk (north of Moscow), Kapustin Yar (near Volgograd), Vladimir (east of Moscow), Vypolzovo (northwest of Moscow), Yoshkar Ola (in the Republic of Mari El), Kozel'sk (southwest of Moscow), Tatishchevo (north of Volgograd), Teykovo (northeast of Moscow), and Surovatikha (south of Nizhniy Novgorod). Indicating the priority given air defense of the European sector, Russia listed only four additional missile bases outside the CFE Treaty reporting area, at Nizhniy Tagil, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, and Kansk. There is a training regiment at the missile test facility near Plesetsk and another at the Kapustin Yar test facility. Russia has continued the reduction in strategic missile inventory required under START I, although at a pace slower than the United States would like. By mid-1996 all nuclear warheads on former Soviet SRF missiles in Kazakstan and Ukraine had been returned to Russia or destroyed, and all missiles were scheduled to leave Belarus by the end of 1996 (see Nuclear Arms Issues, this ch.).
The Russian SRF missile inventory not only is shrinking in response to treaty requirements but also is changing in character. The new SS-25 Topol is the only system suited to Russian strategic requirements and acceptable under the requirements of START I, so rocket production efforts will concentrate on this model for the foreseeable future.
The Topol is fielded in SRF regiments comprising three battalions totaling nine launch vehicles. In 1996 forty such regiments were operational. Several older operational ICBM systems also remained in the field. These included an SS-17 regiment of ten silos, six SS-18 silo fields totaling 222 missiles with multiple warheads, four SS-19 silo fields totaling 250 missiles with multiple warheads, and ninety-two SS-24 missiles of which thirty-six are mounted on trains. All except the SS-24 were being phased out in favor of the SS-25 Topol. Two remaining SS-25 regiments without warheads were scheduled for redeployment from Belarus to the Perm' region in 1996.