Pavel Podvig flags a quote from a Russian Ministry of Defense source that the RS-24, a multiple-warhead version of the single warhead SS-27, could begin to be deployed in 2011, after one or two more flight tests. Russia had originally planned to deploy the missile in December 2009 to coincide with the expiration of START. Are development/testing problems slowing things down? It wouldn’t be the first time. Another theory is that the delay might have something to do with the New START negotiations. In a recent article published on the Center for Nonproliferation Studies’ website (and written before the Ministry of Defense source announced the delay), Dr. Alexander A. Pikayev, Director of the Department for Disarmament and Conflict Resolution at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) in Moscow opined that:
[W]hen in November 2009 the Ministry of Defense disclosed new deployments of the Topol M, it did not mention the RS-24. Nor did the ministry announce any plans to deploy them in 2010.
The decision could be explained by various reasons, from economic to purely technical. But it might also be possible that the inaction reflects the Kremlin’s desire not to complicate the situation further at a time that the self-imposed deadline for completing the new [START] agreement had already been missed. If this supposition is accurate, it would demonstrate Moscow’s continuing interest in concluding a follow-on treaty.
Continuing on the topic of delays, Global Security Newswire’s Elaine Grossman reports that further refurbishment of the B-61 air-delivered gravity bomb is being delayed by Congress, at least for the time-being. NoH was all over this back in October when the conference report on the FY2010 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill was completed. Recall that NNSA’s initial funding request last February was only enough to study a non-nuclear refurbishment of the B61. However, if Gen. Chilton’s now (in)famous briefing slides on the B61 are any indication, STRATCOM definitely wants to tinker around with the weapon’s nuclear explosive package, specifically to enhance Surety. If the Nuclear Posture Review rules in favor of the B61, we can probably expect funding to be requested and approved to look at the explosive package.
Finally, a couple of duck hunters caused quite a stir last Friday as they tried to set up some decoys on a piece of land near the Pantex Plant, which assembles and disassembles our nuclear weapons. On a sorta related note, Duck Hunt is hands down the greatest Nintendo game of all time.