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The ‘Nuclear Weapon’ of Hungary

Szöveg: László Feith |  2008. július 21. 10:51

Though it is a less known fact, but our country has a ‘nuclear weapon’ as well, or more precisely a Soviet intercontinental ballistic rocket which can carry a nuclear warhead. The weapon arrived to the Kecel military technique park of MoD Institute and Museum of Military History three years ago in a defused state and with all the important parts uninstalled, and it is still exhibited there.

The SS-24 (also called RT-23) intercontinental ballistic rocket, which is nearly 24 metres long, with a diameter of 2.4 metres, a weight of 104.5 tons, and a range of 12.000 kilometres belongs to the most dangerous group of nuclear weapons, that of strategic assault weapons. Regarding its size and concept it is similar to the American LGM-118 Peacekeeper.

It can carry 10 warheads with a weight of 550 kilotons respectively, and each warhead can be aimed at a different target. There is another version of the device which can be installed in silos or specially adjusted railway carriages, and according to unofficial Russian estimates its target accuracy is 500 metres. It is a three-phase device fueled by solid fuel, launched by cold ignition — the latter means that the rocket leaves the site of launch with the help of compressed gas and the engines are turned on only after the start. The development of the first version (15Zh44) of the weapon started in January 1969, and following numerous restructuring works on the concept the testing phase started in 1982. Following a series of failure the Soviet Ministry of Defence did not permit its manufacturing.

The next attempt (15Zh52) had proven to be more successful, but the real breakthrough was the mobile, railway-launched 15Zh61, which had been developed between 1983 and 1989 and set in battle order at three military bases (Kostroma, Bershet, Krasnoyarsk). According to experts, its weapon platform — the Military Railway Rocket Complex (BZHRK) — surpassed the future Topol and Bulava systems. The vehicle pulled by diesel engines consisted of three launch-carriages with convertible roof, the command carriage/control centre, and two units carrying the staff. The BZHRK system made the United States uncomfortable for several reasons, since it could operate on nearly the entire railway network of the Soviet Union, the total length of which was 145.000 kilometres at that time, moreover, by satellite reconnaissance methods it was difficult to differentiate between regular railway carriages and the ones carrying the weapon. It caused further concern that as a result of this method, the rocket could be launched from any point of the railway network, and not only from a starting site constructed in advance.

The silo-based 15Zh60 replacing the SS-17 version appeared parallelly with the 15Zh61. A total of 56 devices of this type were settled; 10 in Russia, and 46 in the area of the Ukraine. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union not only these weapons of mass destruction fell in Kiev’s laps, but the complete manufacturing capacity as well. The rockets were withdrawn from battle order and transferred back to Russia, and the gates of the manufacturing plants had been locked. The end of the Cold War brought an end to both SS-24 and other strategic assault weapons. Their number started to decrease drastically with the conclusion of the START-1 (1991) and START-2 (1993) contracts. These documents were limited to strategic assault weapons, their carrier and ignition devices owned either by the Soviets or the Americans, and they did not extend to shorter range nuclear weapon systems.

In line with the agreements the parties are decreasing the number of their nuclear warheads belonging to the aforementioned category to 6.000 in the first stage, then to 3.500 (maybe 3.000). At the same time, relying on the estimates made by experts, it can be stated that the two great powers still have enough strategic nuclear weapons to annihilate the Earth totally. Should 1.500-2.000 rockets be deployed on each side, the average temperature of our planet would increase by 30 degrees even in those continents which were not reached by a single nuclear warhead. Thus a ‘nuclear winter’ would come, which would mean the end of civilization on Earth.