MOSCOW, December 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Strategic Missile Forces are set to start re-equipping their single-warhead mobile Topol-M (SS-27) intercontinental ballistic missile systems with multiple re-entry vehicles, the forces' commander said Friday.
Colonel-General Nikolai Solovtsov said: "We will begin to equip the Topol-M mobile missile system with multiple re-entry vehicles in a few years."
Solovtsov said his forces conducted six ICBM launches in 2006, and 12 launches are scheduled for 2007.
The latest firing was held in November to test the performance characteristics of the RS-18 (SS-19 Stiletto) to extend its service life by one year, from 29 to 30 years.
Following numerous test launches, RS-18 missiles are considered to be highly reliable. About 360 silo-based Stiletto missiles are currently deployed in the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, with each missile carrying six warheads.
A total of six ICBM systems of the fourth and fifth generations are on active duty, including four silo-based, RS-18, RS-20B (SS-18 Satan), RS-20V(modified SS-18 Satan), RS-12M2 (Topol-M), and two mobile systems RS-12M (Topol) and RS-12M2 (Topol-M), Solovtsov said.
President Vladimir Putin has said the deployment of mobile Topol-M systems contributes a great deal to Russia's national security.
The first regiment of Topol-M mobile ICBMs was put on active duty in the Ivanovo region in Central Russia in early December.
"This is a significant step forward in improving our defense capabilities," he said while inspecting the regiment Thursday.
Russia currently has five missile regiments equipped with silo-based Topol-M missiles, and one regiment equipped with mobile Topol-M systems. The total number of Topol-M ICBMs, including three silo-based systems to be deployed at the Tatishchevo base, will reach 48 by the end of the year, according to the Strategic Missile Forces Command.
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said earlier that Russia is planning to purchase 69 silo-based and mobile Topol-M ballistic missile systems in the next decade.
Vladimir Putin said last month that developing Russia's strategic forces is the main priority on the national defense agenda.
"Maintaining a strategic balance will mean that our strategic deterrent forces should be able to guarantee the neutralization of any potential aggressor, no matter what modern weapons systems he possesses," the president told a meeting with top military officials.
As of January 1, Russia possessed 927 nuclear delivery vehicles and 4,279 nuclear warheads for strategic offensive weapons, while the United States owns 1,255 and 5,966, respectively, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
The Russian military will mark Strategic Missile Forces' Day, a professional holiday, December 17.