SS-N-23 “Skiff”

The SS-N-23 Skiff (R-29RM Shtil) is an intercontinental-range, submarine-based, liquid propellant ballistic missile. The Skiff was developed for the Delta IV ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), each of which is capable of carrying 16 missiles.1

SS-N-23 at a Glance

Originated From: Russia
Possessed By: Russia
Alternate Name: Stalin, Topol-M, RS-12M1, RS-12M2, RT-2PM2
Class: Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM)
Basing: Road-mobile, Silo-based
Length: 21.9 m
Diameter: 1.9 m
Launch Weight: 47,000 kg
Payload: Single warhead, 1,200 kg
Warhead: Nuclear 500 kT
Propulsion: Three-stage liquid propellant
Range: 11,000 km
Status: Operational
In Service: 1997

ss-n-23The SS-N-23 is capable of launching its 2,800 kg payload up to a range of 8,300 km. This payload is capable of carrying ten 100 kT yield MIRV warheads, though only a four MIRV warhead version entered production.2 The missile uses a three-stage liquid propellant engine and is 14.9 m in length, with a maximum width of 1.9 m.3

The SS-N-23 entered development in 1973, with the first missile testing beginning in 1983. The missile entered operational service aboard Delta IV SSBN in 1986, with 112 missiles on seven Delta IV submarines by 1991.4 Production of SS-N-23 missiles had ceased in 1998, but was reportedly restarted in 1999.5 A U.S. report in 2013 put the number of SS-N-23 missiles in the Russian arsenal at 96.6

Life Extension and Follow-on Upgrades

In 1998 a life-extension program called ‘Sineva’ was begun, and completed in 2007. As of 2016, all deployed SS-N-23 carry the Sineva designation (as opposed to prior “Shtil” moniker. As of 2016, Russia deployed 96 four-MIRVed launchers across six Delta IV submarines, for a total of approximately 384 nuclear warheads. 7

Following the completion of the first Sineva program, it is believed that a Sineva 2 upgrade program has been started, known as “Layner.” {Ibid, 129.] The Sineva upgrade may add additional MIRV to the missiles in addition to modified propulsion, satellite navigation, resistance to EMP, and upgraded decoys.8

Space Launch Applications

Modified versions of the SS-N-23 have reported to have been used as space launch vehicles. In July 1998 and May 2006, satellites were launched from Delta IV submarines; the launch vehicle used in both cases is believed to be a modified version of the SS-N-23.9

    1. National Air and Space Intelligence Center, U.S. Air Force, “Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat,” 2013.
    2. Pavel Podvig, ed., Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2001), 335-337. The system initially had an accuracy of 900 m CEP, but later versions were improved to 500 m CEP. The SS-N-23 uses an inertial navigation system coupled with stellar correction and satellite radio command guidance.[3. “R-29RM Shetal/Sineva (RSM-543M27),” IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, ed. James C. O’Halloran (United Kingdom: IHS, 2015), 88-89.
    3. Pavel Podvig, ed., Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2001), 335-337.
    4. “R-29RM Shetal/Sineva (RSM-543M27),” IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, ed. James C. O’Halloran (United Kingdom: IHS, 2015), 88-89.
    5. Pavel Podvig, ed., Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2001), 335-337.
    6. National Air and Space Intelligence Center, U.S. Air Force, “Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat,” 2013, http://fas.org/programs/ssp/nukes/nuclearweapons/NASIC2013_050813.pdf
    7. Hans M. Kristensen & Robert S. Norris (2016) Russian nuclear forces, 2016, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 72:3, 125-134, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00963402.2016.1170359.
    8. “R-29RM Shetal/Sineva (RSM-543M27),” IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, ed. James C. O’Halloran (United Kingdom: IHS, 2015), 88-89.
    9. Steven Clark, “Russian Submarine Launches Russian Microsatellite,” Space.com, May 29, 2006, http://www.space.com/2440-russian-submarine-launches-russian-microsatellite.html .