Overview of Capabilities

As the heir to the Soviet nuclear arsenal, Russia deploys the largest and most diverse nuclear missile force in the world. Reports indicate that Russia plans to spend 25% of its $560 billion budget for military modernization on upgrading its aging nuclear forces. [1] This process is part of a long-planned process of retirements and replacements for Soviet-era weapons. [2] While the size of the Russian arsenal will likely decline in the long-term, because the rate that older missiles are being withdrawn from the force has slowed from 50 missiles per year before the New START Treaty to about 22 missiles per year after New START, Russia has actually increased the size of its arsenal since signing the arms control treaty. [3]

The Russian nuclear arsenal plays a large role in Moscow’s security strategy, with Russian President Vladimir Putin declaring on December 19, 2014, that the Russian nuclear arsenal would receive 50 new ICBMs in 2015 and Chief of the General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov stating that, “The strengthening of Russia’s nuclear triad will be the top priority for the Russian Armed Forces next year.” [5] According to Pavel Podvig’s estimates, in January of 2017 Russia was estimated to have 528 strategic launchers with about 1800 nuclear warheads, with the ICBM force-carrying 958 warheads on 286 operational missiles of six types, 176 SLBM’s carrying 752 warheads, and 66 bombers that have about 200 weapons assigned to them. [6]

Russia also deploys a large arsenal of non-strategic or tactical nuclear weapons, which can be delivered by its arsenal of short-range missiles. These missiles carry the potential to be deployed in forward locations, such as Kaliningrad, to attack NATO forces. [7] A new medium-range ground-launched cruise missile version of the Iskander series called the Iskander-K has raised recent questions about Russian compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, including the State Department issuing a declaration of noncompliance in 2014. [8]

Moscow’s missiles have also proliferated around the globe. Worldwide missile arsenals share a lineage with many Russian systems including the Scud missile, which has been copied and sold around the world since the 1960’s. [9] Recently Russian missile designs have played prominent roles in the Ukrainian and Syrian conflicts. [10][11]

Close-Range Ballistic Missiles (CRBMs)

Model Propellant Warhead Type Deployment Mode Range (Km)
OTR-21 Tochka (SS-21 Scarab) Solid Conventional/Nuclear Road-Mobile 70-120
SS-1 Scud-A Liquid Conventional/Nuclear/Chemical Road-Mobile 260
Iskander-E Solid Conventional Road-Mobile 280

Short Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBMs)

Model Propellant Warhead Type Deployment Mode Range (Km)
R-17 Elbrus/SS-1c (Scud-B) Liquid Conventional/Nuclear/Chemical Road-Mobile 300
SS-1d Scud-C Liquid Conventional/Chemical Road-Mobile 550
R-17 VTO/SS-1e (Scud-D) Liquid Conventional/Nuclear/Chemical Road-Mobile 300
Iskander-M (SS-26 Stone) Solid Conventional/Nuclear Road-Mobile 400-500

The Scud and Its Historical Impact

Russia’s Scud-class ballistic missiles have long since been decommissioned by the Russian military, yet, the missile has spread to dozens of countries around the world. Some countries even began manufacturing their own version of the Russian Scud. Often being reverse engineered, the Scud’s design served as the technical foundation for the missile programs of numerous countries around the world; countries that were often U.S. adversaries. Indeed, the Russian Scud missile served as the technical scaffolding for the ballistic missile programs of Iran and North Korea. The Scud was exported in great numbers by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, however, the Scud’s proliferation was later compounded when North Korea exported the Scud design and components to countries such as Egypt, Iraq, and Yemen. Below is a table representing just some of the countries to receive the Russia-made Scud missile.

Scud Proliferation Table

Country Domestic


Country of Origin Variant Name Status
Afghanistan No Soviet Union Scud B Unknown
Armenia No Soviet Union Scud B, Scud C Operational
Belarus No Soviet Union Scud B Operational
Georgia No Soviet Union Scud B Operational
DRC No Unknown Scud B Unknown
Egypt No Soviet Union(reportedly) Scud B, Hwasong-6 (Scud-C) Operational
Iran Yes N/A Shahab-1 (Scud B), Shahab-2 (Scud-C), Shahab-3 (Scud-C/NoDong) Operational
Iraq Yes   Al-Hussein (Scud-B) Not Operational as of 2003
Kazakhstan No Soviet Union Scud B Operational
Libya No Soviet Union Scud B  
North Korea Yes   Hwasong-5 (Scud B), Hwasong-6 (Scud-C), Hwasong-7 (Scud-D), NoDong (Scud-C variant) Operational
Oman No Unknown Scud B Unknown
Romania No Soviet Union Scud B Operational
Syria Yes (no domestic production since the start of the civil war) North Korea/Soviet Union Hwasong-6 (Scud C), Hwasong-7 (Scud D), Scud B Operational
Turkmenistan No Soviet Union Scud B Operational
United Arab Emirates No North Korea Hwasong-5 (Scud B) Operational
Vietnam No Soviet Union Scud B, Scud-C, Scud-D Operational
Yemen No Unknown Scud B Operational

Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBMs)

Model Propellant Warhead Type Deployment Mode Range (Km)
Kh-47M2 Kinzhal “Dagger” Solid Nuclear/Conventional/Hypersonic Air-Launched 2000km

Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs)

Model Propellant Warhead Type Deployment Mode Range (Km)
SS-18 Satan (R-36M2 Voyevoda) Liquid Nuclear Silo 10,000
UR-100N (SS-19 Stiletto)  Liquid Nuclear Silo 9,000+
SS-25 Sickle (RS-12M Topol) Solid Nuclear Silo & Road-mobile 11,000
SS-27 (Topol-M) Solid Nuclear Silo & Road-Mobile 11,000
SS-27 Mod 2 (RS-24 Yars) Solid Nuclear Silo & Road-Mobile 11,000
RS-26 Rubezh Solid Nuclear/Hypersonic Road-Mobile 6,000-11,000
RS-28 Sarmat (Satan 2)* Liquid Nuclear/Hypersonic Silo ~10,000

*Not yet operational

Cruise Missiles

Model Propellant Warhead Type Deployment Mode Range (Km)
AS-15 Kent (Kh-55 Granat) Liquid Thermonuclear/conventional Air 2000-3000
KH-101/102 Liquid Nuclear/conventional Air 4,500 – 5,500
RK-55 Relief (SS-N-21 Sampson) Solid Conventional/(nuclear ret.) Sub/TEL 3000
3M-54 Klub (SS-N-27 Sizzler) Solid Nuclear/conventional Sub/VLS/TEL/Air 220-660
3M-14 Kalibr (SS-N-30A) Solid Nuclear/conventional Sub/VLS/Air 1500-2500
P-15 Termit (SS-N-2 Styx) Liquid Conventional VLS/TEL 80
SS-N-3 Shaddock Solid/Turbojets Nuclear/conventional Sub/VLS 1000
P-120 Malakhit (SS-N-9 Siren) Solid Nuclear/conventional Sub/VLS 70-150
SS-N-22 Sunburn Solid/Ramjets Thermonuclear/conventional VLS/TEL/Air 120-250
P-500 Bazalt (SS-N-12 Sandbox) Liquid/Turbojets Nuclear/conventional Sub/VLS 550
SS-N-19 Shipwreck Solid/Ramjets Thermonuclear/conventional Sub/VLS 625
KH-35 (SS-N-25 Switchblade) Liquid Conventional Sub/VLS/TEL/Air 300
P-800 Oniks (SS-N-26 Strobile) Liquid/Ramjets Conventional Sub/VLS/TEL/Air 600 (300 E)
SSC-8 Unknown Nuclear/conventional TEL 3,000+
P-1000 Vulkan  Liquid/Turbojets Nuclear/conventional Sub/VLS 700
BrahMos Solid Nuclear/conventional Sub/VLS/Air 300

Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs)

Model Propellant Warhead Type Submarine Class Maximum Range (KM)
SS-N-18 Stingray Liquid Nuclear Delta III 5,500+
SS-N-23A Skiff Liquid Nuclear Delta IV 8,000+
SS-N-30 Bulava Solid Nuclear Dolgorukiy ( Borey )Typhoon 8,000 +


Model Propellant Warhead Type Deployment Mode Maximum Range (KM)
Avangard  Solid  Nuclear/Hypersonic Road-Mobile Unknown
Brahmos-II  Liquid/Scramjet  Conventional/Hypersonic Air, Ground, Ship, and Sub-Mobile  450-600 km
3M22 Zircon  Solid/Scramjet  Conventional/Hypersonic Air, Ground, Ship, and Sub-Mobile  1,000 km

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) & Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Threat

Kamov Ka-137530 kmReconnaissance, patrol, police, and ecology, emergency, and data transmitting
Yakovlev Pchela-1T60 kmBattlefield surveillance and observation
ZALA Lancet40 km“loitering munition” kamikaze drone
ZALA 421-0640 kmUnmanned aerial helicopter
ZALA 421-0850 kmReconnaissance
ZALA 421-1250 kmautonomous or semi-autonomous UAV for reconnaissance
Orion (Inokhodets)250 kmDestroying ground targets
Orion-E250 kmReconnaissance
DJI Mavic 330 kmA commercial drone that Russia often fits with small bombs

Russia’s UAV and UAS capabilities play into its military calculus. In Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its ongoing involvement in Syria, UAVs have played a significant role. Amidst the Russian-Ukrainian War, a Tupolev TU-141 Strizh—a retired Soviet-era drone—crossed through Hungary and Croatia’s borders. As the war intensified, the United States provided Ukraine with High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), which it used to weaken Russia’s military capabilities. In an effort to destroy the HIMARS, Russia has been using ZALA Lancets to perform kamikaze missions against the Ukrainian systems. Russia’s drone capabilities are real and mobilized; the challenge is for the U.S. and its allies to match and respond to this capability.

Missile Defense Systems

SystemRoleNumber DeployedRange
S-300Long Range Air Defense System800150km
S-400Long Range Air Defense System50400km
S-500Long Range Air Defense SystemUnknown600km
Pantsir S-1Short Range Air Defense System 1020km

History of Russian Missile Defense

Here is an expert presentation of the history of Russian missile defense conducted at Johns Hopkins University.

Recent News

  • On February 24, 2022, Russia began its brutal invasion of Ukraine. The Russian military’s strategy involves the use of ballistic missiles (the Iskander and Tuchka-M), cruise missiles (Kalibr), and hypersonic missiles (Kinzhal) to strike ground targets. Thereafter, Russian invading forces move in and take control. As of June 2022, Russia has fired over 2,500 missiles at Ukraine, allowing it to capture 97% of the Donbas region. [12] [13] Because of Russia’s frequent use of these missiles, the United States Department of Defense believes that Russia has significantly depleted its missile capabilities. [14]
  • In addition to Russia’s use of ballistic, cruise, and hypersonic missiles, President Vladamir Putin has threatened the use of Russia’s nuclear arsenal throughout the war. In February 2022, Putin first placed Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert, signifying his willingness to use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. [15]


[1] Hennigan, W.J. and Vartabedian, Ralph. November 10, 2014. LA Times. “As U.S. nuclear arsenal ages, other nations have modernized.” Accessed 2-2-2015

[2] Nichols, Tom. May 9, 2014. National Interest. “Welcome to Russian Nuclear Weapons 101.” Accessed 2-2-2015

[3] Kristensen, Hans M. October 2, 2014. Federation of American Scientists. “New START: Russia and the United States Increase Deployed Nuclear Arsenals.” Accessed 3-30-2015.

[4] Ibid

[5] Sputnik News. December 29, 2014. Sputnik News. “Russian Army Prioritizes Strengthening of Strategic Nuclear Forces in 2015” Accessed 2-2-2015

[6] Podvig, Pavel. Updated February 11, 2015. Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces. “Current status.” Accessed 3-30-2015.

[7] Majumdar, Dave. January 31, 2015. National Interest. “5 Russian Nuclear “Weapons” of War the West Should Fear.” Accessed 2-2-2015

[8] Kristensen, Hans M. July 30, 2014. Federation of American Scientists. “Russia Declared In Violation Of INF Treaty: New Cruise Missile May Be Deploying.” Accessed 3-30-15

[9] Osokin, Yury. July 14, 2014. Russia Beyond the Headlines. “The Scud: A missile destined for universal cloning.”

[10] Itar-TASS. October 20, 2014. “Ukrainian security forces deliver strikes on downtown Donetsk from Tochka-U missile system.”

[11] Gordon, Michael R. and Schmitt, Eric. December 20, 2012. New York Times. “Syria Fires More Scud Missiles at Rebels, U.S. Says.”





Missile Threat and Proliferation