When the Soviet Union ceased to exist in 1991, a comprehensive network of mutually complementary systems - comparable only to those of the United States - rapidly began to deteriorate, namely:
- strategic warning installations
- the world's only operational ABM system and
- an elaborate command and control system.
Several of these systems, namely ground-based early warning radars and manufacturing sites, remained 1991 on the territory of former Soviet Republics and were left unattended but partly fully equipped. As a dangerous consequence the Russian government had to take political and military decisions on the basis of incomplete, inaccurate information. The threat of accidental nuclear weapon launches was real.
The following compilation gives a crude impression of an ongoing process, which, in no way, pretends to be complete or up to date. For serious information, please refere to dedicated sources and specialized people.
1967: Existing units for early-warning, space objects monitoring, ABM and ASAT were integrated into the Air Defense Forces.
1997: The Space Missile Defense Troops were integrated into the SRF. Included were as well the Military Space Forces. All strategic early warning and missile defense installations were grouped into the SRF's 3rd Separate Missile Defense and Missile Attack Warning Army.
2000: The 1997 decision was reversed, a seperate branch of forces was created including the Space Missile Defense Troops and the Military Space Forces.
1976: The Soviet SPRN officially became operational.
1982: SPRN gradually became supplemented by a growing number of EW satellites and was linked to the strategic command and control system.
1991: SPRN was well developed and included 9 EW radar stations with 19 long-range EW ground radars and a constellation of EW satellites in elliptical and geostationary orbits.
Severeal generations of EW radar equipment were in use:
- Dnestr and Dnestr-M, deployed at
- Olenogorsk (Murmansk) 1970
- Skrunda/Riga (Latvia) 1970
- Mishelevka (Irkutsk) 1973
- Balkhash (Kazakhstan) 1973
- Dnepr, deployed at
- Balkhash (Kazakhstan) 1974
- Skrunda/Riga (Latvia) 1991
- Muchakevo (Ukraine) 1991
- Nikolayev (Ukraine) 1991
- Mishelevka (Irkutsk) 1991
- Balkhash (Kazakhstan) 1991
- Sevastopol (Ukraine)
- Daryal, Daryal-U and Daryal-UM, deployed at
- Olenogorsk (Murmansk) 1974
- Pechora (Komi) 1974
- Gabala (Azerbaijan) 1984
- Mishelevka (Irkutsk) 1992
- Yeniseysk (Krasnoyarsk), was never operational
- Skrunda/Riga (Latvia), was never operational
- Muchakevo (Ukraine), was never operational
-Volga, deployed at
Baranovichi (Belarus), 1988?, was never operational
Sevastopol (Ukraine), 1988?, construction was stopped
Komsomolsk-na-Amur (Amur), 1988?, construction was stopped
The Space-Missile-Defense Troops tried to deploy OTHRs, capable of detecting US missiles immediately after their launch, rather than only after they rose above the Soviets radar horizon. These efforts however were not very successfull. Some Duga OTHRs were tested at Nikolajev (Ukraine), Pripjat (Ukraine) and Komsomolsk-na-Amur (Amur), but they could not detect US missiles with the necessary precision.
After 1991 only 3 of 9 SPRN stations remained on Russian territory and the government sought to rebuild the fragmented network, which 1992 included the signing by CIS countries of the „Agreement on Missile Warning and Space Monitoring System„ . The results of Russia's efforts to preserve the radar network varied from country to country.
Until 1998 all radar stations in Skrunda were dismantled, but the Volga radar in Belarus finally was finished by late 2000, although financial problems delayed state acceptance tests further. Dnepr in Nikolajev and Muchakevo could be preserved as well, the incomplete Daryal-UM in Muchakevo however was not finished. The status of the Daryal in Gabala remained unresolved and was only rarely switched on for verifying space objects, because only Gabala station covers the Indian Ocean sector. According to a press release in December 2012, Gabala project will not be continued. The future of Balkhash station still is not clear.
The SPRN station's gradual obsolescence began to threaten the system's effectiveness. This issue being especially relevant for the older types of radars. The Space-Missile-Defense-Troops have dedicated much effort into their equipment, for example they made up the loss of the Skrunda station with the Pechora's radar and the Don-2N battle management radar of the A-135 ABM system near Moscow.
Nevertheless the Russian government has made plans for the future. The 2001 to 2010 investment program included upgrades to SPRN command network, development of new radars and modernisation of existing equipment. The high cost of operating ground-based early warning radars however have led some to question the utility of preserving the aged ground system and to argue for greater reliance on early warning satellites.
A Voronezh Phased Array Radar is in trial state at Mishelevka (Irkutsk).
A Voronezh-DM station is partly ready for testing at Dunayevka Airport (Kaliningrad).
A Voronezh-M station is operational in Lektushi (St.Petersburg).
Other Voronezh systems will be built/are under construction in Barnaul (Altai), Pechora (Komi) and Olenogorsk (Murmansk).
(Info from Pavel Podvigs Website http://russianforces.org )
A Voronezh-DM station will be in operation in Armavir (Krasnodar) early 2013. It replaces the Daryal Radar in Gabala, as the 10 years leasing contract with Azerbaijan has expired.
Supplementing SPRN's EW Ground Radar Network is the EW Satellite Network, whose importance is heightened by the Soviet Unions failure to deploy effective ground-based OTHR stations. The Satellite Network consists of 2 tiers of satellites in elliptical and geostationary orbits.
1960: Start of development of the Satellite Network.
1978: The system became operational, while still not complete in the number of satellites.
1982: The system had its full capability with 9 satellites and was linked with the nuclear command and control system.
1991: Second generation geostationary satellites can detect launches against the earth background and not only against the sky background.
1998: Only 4 to 5 satellites were still functioning, provoking monitoring gaps of up to 6 h in certain regions.
In spite of the deterioration of the Satellite Network, the SRF claims the system's reliability and the very low risk of false alarms. Future priorities include the development of new generation satellites and lower launch costs as well as the creation of a new network to detect submarine missile launches.
In addition to the SPRN Russia also possesses SKKP, which tracks and controls Russian satellites and identifies and monitors foreign space objects. The SKKP was under the control of the Military Space Troops until 1997, when they were merged with the SRF and were transferred to the Air Force by 2002.
SPPK 's main command posts are located near Moscow; including a network of land-based tracking stations and a small fleet of vessels with space object tracking radars. SKKP is linked with SPRN radar stations, ABM system radars and opto-electronic and laser sensors, for example the Okno opto-electronic sensor near Nurek (Tajikistan). Okno is capable of tracking objects with a dia. of 10 to 50 cm or bigger in orbit heights between 120 km to 40'000 km.
In a crisis situation the Nuclear Command and Control System would be activated, if the General Staffs central command post received a nuclear missile attack warning message from the EW Systems Central Command Post. This message, including type and scale of attack, predicted trajectories and targets are displayed on the
Krokus system terminals used by Russia's highest leadership. Since the EW Satellite Network did not provide global coverage, the missile warning may be issued using information from EW ground stations only.
The Russian president has the right to authorize the use of nuclear weapons. The highest level of leadership includes
- the president
- the minister of defense
- the General Staff and
- commanders in chief of the Air Force, Navy and SRF
The highest level command posts include
- underground, super-hardened command posts in the city of Moscow and the region
- airborne command posts for the Air Force, Navy and SRF, based near Moscow
- railroad - and truck-mounted command posts
All command posts are connected via two-way communication channels and are protected against ESW. Individuals and agencies of the higher level of the SNF are contiously connected to each other via the special communication system
- Kazbek, which includes the two-way communication system Signal-A and its subsystem V'yuga. Signal-A is highly redundant and reliable. It uses several communication channels via radio, cable, satellite or troposphere. V'yuga makes use of links on HF, VLF and satellite. Both systems securely can communicate simultanously.
- Cheget is a portable equipment employed by the president to give authorisation for use of nuclear weapons
- Kavkaz, the special communication system (radio and satellite channels), which connects Cheget to the Kazbek network, wherever the president is.
- Baksan, a terminal equipment in command posts of General Staff, Air Force, Navy and SRF in order to receive the president's authorisation.
-Perimetr, a backup emergency system, whose existence has been known outside Russia for some time, but was offically recognised only 1999. It is designed to withstand a nuclear war performing a LUA. The crucial ability of Perimetr is to transmit an order from the General Staff directly to the ICBM launchers, thus physically bypassing all immediate command posts of the SRF. Perimetr as well may launch ballistic missiles, which transmit attack orders during their 20...50 minutes flight over ICBM bases.
Following the activation of Kazbek the commander-in-chief will issue a „preliminary command„ bringing the strategic forces to full readiness and activating the system for the transmission of launch orders and codes to the nuclear forces. The commander-in-chief may, in certain cases, use a portable Kazbek system terminal for communication with the General Staff. The actual launch orders are formulated by the General Staff.
The command and control system was structured to issue missile launch orders upon the receipt of an attack warning (LOW), but did not preclude a first strike. The commander-in-chief and the minister of defense together could authorize a missile attack warning going directly to the General Staff, without any SPRN input.
The C3 system uses a certain amount of redundancy to reduce the risk of excessive centralisation. In addition to multiple and redundant communication channels the system may use reserve and mobile command posts. Although the General Staff's command posts near Moscow are protected against attack, the Soviets 1970 began the construction of an „absolutely protected CP„ deep inside a mountain. There has been speculation that a „dead hand„ system, sited in a new underground facility in Yamantau mountain, could issue launch orders even in the case of severe attacks on the command and control system.
Like other branches of Russian armed forces, the nuclear C3 systems also suffered from funding and personnel problems. It is one of the big questions, to what extent the structure of the Soviet C3 systems still is in use. Regular VLF transmissions with Morse codewords issued by the General Staff may indicate, that certain procedures remained through all the years.
The Russian leadership several times tried to convince the world, that their systems are reliable and they executed large-scale exercises. But the deterioration of all components - early warning, space monitoring, and C3 - may make it very difficult for Russia to maintain their „launch on warning„ doctrine.
In 2000 the Russian Federation possessed one ABM system with 100 interceptor missiles and associated radar stations around Moscow, according to the 1972 ABM treaty. The extremely complex radar and command centre electronics reportedly had a low combat readiness and for safety reasons the nuclear warheads were stored separately from the missiles. Bringing the missiles into readiness would require at least 12 h.
The A-135 missile system was supplemented by the S-300MU2 and S-300 Favorit air defense systems, which can be used to intercept tactical ballistic missiles. The A-135 still retains capabilities and was successfully tested 1999. The associated Don-2N radars possesses useful early warning and space tracking capabilities and remain in service quite a while.
In the late 1960's the Soviet Union developed an Automated Anti Satellite (ASAT) system, consisting of a ground command centre, a special launch site at Baykonur Cosmodrome and radar- and infrared guided interceptor satellites with highly explosive fragmentation warheads. After successfull tests the system IS-M was officially accepted 1973. Today status and readiness of the system is unknown.
For decades the Soviet Union had a comprehensive program under way to ensure leadership survival and continuity of function in a nuclear war. This effort involved the construction of deep underground command posts, secret subway lines and other facilities beneath Moscow, major Soviet cities and the sites of key military commands. These bunkers were, in some cases, hundreds of meters deep offering space for thousands of people.
As nuclear arsenals on both sides became more potent, these facilities were expanded to even greater depths. In addition near surface bunkers and relocation sites for military, party and government authorities were constructed. They would accomodate all key command and management staff of the Strategic Rocket Forces, Air Defense Forces and Air Forces.
The leaders of the various organs of state control in Moscow could directly move from their peacetime offices through concealed entry ways down to their protective quarters below the city. The leadership was offered to board secret subway lines to reach the different underground facilities. The support infrastructure involved is substantial: a highly redundant communication system, consisting of on-site and remote elements, ensured the secure exchange of orders and reports in wartimes.
A quick look with GoogleEarth reveals, that today (2011) some of the facilities most probably are abandoned. Photos of visitors often show ruins and rusty fences, although at some sites the surface infrastructure is clearly visible - on Mount Yamantau base even smoking chimneys. Other CPs do not show any sign of their purpose, they might have been modernized and are still ready for use.
Chekhov at 55°09'00''N 37°28'36''E, a leadership relocation near Moscow. Construction works began 1950 and underwent modernisation and expansion in the early 1970s. It is believed Chekhov should accomodate the General Staff. US intelligence 1983 came to the conclusion Chekhov and Sharapovo are „harder, deeper and less vulnerable than previously estimated„ and might allow independent operation for many months.
Sharapovo at 55°35'04''N 37°10'41''E, a leadership relocation near Moscow. Facilities, construction and infrastrure are comparable with Chekhov site. It was erected for the Wartime Defense Council.
Chaadayevka at 53°06'45N 45°57'36E, a leadership relocation near Penza. Other coordinates mentioned for this site are 53°08'37''N 45°54'35''E and 53°34'15''N 46°30'21''E.
Voronovo site, Moscow region, at 55°19'00''N 37°09'54''E, apparently was nearly complete in early 1997. Its location is not confirmed though, as Voronovo is a very common name.
Kuntsevo site near Moscow at 55°44'00''N 37°26'00''E, is reportedly the location of the Strategic Missile Troops command center. At the same place Stalins Dacha „Blizhny„ was erected - behind a double perimeter fence and protected by 8 camouflaged 30 mm anti-aircraft guns and 300 NKVD special troops.
Kos'vinsky Mountain site in the Ural region at 59°31'00''N 59°04'00''E, is the location of the SRF command post, operational since 1996. It is assumed the construction was comparable with the US Cheyenne Military Complex, being capable to provide the means to retaliate against a nuclear first strike.
Lipetsksite near Voronez at 52°37'07''N 39°34'08''E.
Yamantau Mountain, republic of Bashkortostan, at 54°15'19''N 58°06'11''E. In April 1996 the New York Times reported on a mysterous military base being constructed in Russia and called it „a mammoth underground military complex in the Ural mountains (...) hidden inside Yamantau Mountain, in the Beloretsk, region (...) with thousands of workers, a huge complex, served by a railway and a highway.„
The complex of Yamantau is said to cover an area of up to 700 km2 and was constructed in the Brezhnev area. Its exact location is uncertain and may span as much as an entire degree of latitude. Apparently it is in the vicinity of Zlatoust-36 nuclear weapons plant and the Yutyuzan nuclear weapons storage facility. There is much industry in the region with important towns like Beloretsk, Magnitogorsk and Ufa.
The Russian Defense Ministery declined to say whether Parliament has been informed about the details of the project and offered various descriptions of the site's purpose: a food storage area, a bunker for Russian leaders or a mining and metallurgical center. And the Segodnya newspaper 1996 claimed the Yamantau project was associated with „Dead Hand„, a nuclear retaliatory command and control system for strategic missiles in the event of a „second strike„ case.
According to US sources and based on spy satellite images, the Yamantau is inside a rock quartz mountain, which reportedly caused problems to the radio broadcasts from inside the mountain, transmitters had to be erected outside the center.