At the Dawn of the Strategic Missile Troops

May 96 No 5, (Signed to press 25 Apr 96) pp 66-71
[Article by Colonel General Viktor Ivanovich Yesin, chief of Strategic Missile Troops Main Staff, candidate of military sciences]

Colonel General Viktor Ivanovich Yesin was born on 14 March 1937. He has been in the Missile Troops since 1959 and successively performed duties as section chief, assistant chief of engineer service of a missile battalion, and assistant chief of engineer service of a missile regiment. He participated in Operation Anadyr. After returning from Cuba, he continued service in missile units. He was assistant and senior assistant chief of missile weapons service of a missile division, deputy chief of combat readiness and combat training section of a missile division, and deputy chief of operations section of a missile division. Then he was officer, senior officer, and deputy chief of an axis of the Strategic Missile Troops Main Staff Operations Directorate, and department chief and deputy chief of the Strategic Missile Troops Main Staff Operations Directorate. In 1989 he became chief of Operations Directorate and deputy chief of Strategic Missile Troops Main Staff. In 1994 he became chief of Strategic Missile Troops Main Staff and first deputy CINC Strategic Missile Troops.

The United States was first to create an atomic bomb in 1945. In September of that same year it demonstrated its devastating power to the entire world by carrying out the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Having mastered the secret of nuclear weapons, the U.S. leadership of that time set the winning of world supremacy as its goal. The USSR stood in the path of its attainment. In order to crush it, just 51 days after the end of World War II, in which the United States and USSR were allies, the U.S. Joint Intelligence Committee submitted to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff a plan of war against the USSR which envisaged destruction of the 20 largest cities by a preventive nuclear strike.

Having realized the imminent threat, the USSR leadership attempted to achieve a ban on and destruction of nuclear weapons by submitting the draft of a corresponding convention to the United Nations in 1946, but this USSR initiative found no support and was rejected. The Soviet Union, which had emerged from World War II with a devastated economy, thereby was doomed to create its own nuclear weapons and their delivery systems in order to ensure military parity.

The USSR government took vigorous steps both to eliminate the U.S. atomic monopoly as well as to create means which would permit delivering nuclear weapons to targets on U.S. territory. Decree No 1017-419 "Questions of Rocket-Propelled Weapons,1" which served as the basis for a comprehensive program for creating a new sector of domestic industry, rocket building [raketostroyeniye], came out on 13 May 1946. This decree established the supreme agency for directing the development of missile weapons in our country, the Special Committee for Rocket Engineering1 under the USSR Council of Ministers, specified head ministries for developing and producing missile weapons1 and approved a plan of experimental work in missile engineering1 for 1946-1950. A network of scientific research institutes, design bureaus, experimental plants and ranges was created to implement this plan. Initially the goal was set for them to achieve reproduction of V-2 rockets using domestic materials and prepare a scientific-technical backlog for the creation of domestic missiles with higher specifications and performance characteristics in range, accuracy and power of combat arming.

To attain this goal it was necessary to solve problems of organizing the development, tests, production and mastery of methods of combat employment of missile equipment models. For this the very same USSR Government decree formed the Directorate of Rocket-Propelled Weapons as part of the Armed Forces Main Artillery Directorate (4th Directorate of GAU [Main Artillery Directorate]); the GAU Rocket Scientific Research Institute [SRI]; the State Central Range of Rocket Engineering; and a special artillery unit for mastering, preparing and launching V-2 rockets. These were the first missile establishments and units, whose half-century jubilee is celebrated by strategic missilemen this year.

The GAU 4th Directorate was headed up by Major General Andrey Illarionovich Sokolov. In the Armed Forces structure this directorate was assigned to direct all work to develop missile weapons. Subsequently, in connection with the growth in volume of work and the need for creating missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, the Directorate of the Deputy Commander of Artillery for Special Equipment (UZKA) was formed on its basis in April 1953. All other GAU directorates which also engaged in problems of developing missile complexes to one extent or another were removed from GAU and included in UZKA.

Another reorganization caused by urgent needs occurred in March 1955, and the staff of the chief of rocket- propelled weapons (NRV) was created based on UZKA with subordination to Deputy USSR Minister of Defense for Special Armaments and Rocket Engineering Marshal of Artillery Mitrofan Ivanovich Nedelin. Major General Anatoliy Ivanovich Semenov, who stood at the source of formation of the Directorate of Rocket-Propelled Weapons in the GAU structure, was appointed chief of rocket-propelled weapons. Generals and officers of the staff of the chief of rocket-propelled weapons performed enormous work in compressed time periods to develop tactical and technical specifications for designing missile complexes and placing orders in industry for fabricating prototypes and experimental and series lots of rocket-propelled weapons. They observed the production and field trials of series models and skillfully directed military acceptance work in scientific research institutes, design bureaus, plants and ranges.

The staff of rocket units was established based on the staff of the chief of rocket-propelled weapons in June 1955 and subordinated to the deputy USSR minister of defense for special armaments and rocket engineering, which became the foundation for subsequent formation of the Main Staff of the Strategic Missile Troops.

With the formation of the Strategic Missile Troops--a new branch of the USSR Armed Forces--in December 1959, the staff of the chief of rocket-propelled weapons was reorganized as the Main Directorate of Missile Weapons (GURVO), which acquired the status of general client for RDT&E and also for missile weapons being manufactured in series.

In connection with a reduction in the central staff of the Strategic Missile Troops, GURVO was reorganized in 1995 as the Directorate for Missile Weapon Orders and Deliveries. At the present time, under difficult economic conditions with the chronic shortage of financial and material resources, this directorate's generals and officers on the whole are successfully performing difficult, multiple- aspect missions, one of the main ones of which is creation of the Topol-M modernized missile complex. Together with industry, the flight-design test stage for this missile complex, which is the nucleus of the prospective Strategic Missile Troops grouping, managed to be concluded in 1995 and the transition was made to joint flight tests, completion of which is planned in 1997.

The GAU Rocket SRI that was created (presently the Russian Federation [RF] Ministry of Defense 4th Central SRI) was located in Moscow Oblast. Several barracks, one training building and two residences became the base of production facilities and housing of the Institute, intended for performing research in the area of guided ballistic missile development.

Great credit in forming and establishing the Institute as a military scientific research organization goes to its first chief, Lieutenant General of Artillery Aleksey Ivanovich Nesterenko. A general who had seen action and who had a good knowledge of rocket artillery and methods of its employment, he applied much effort to bring the Institute up to strength in personnel, outfit it with necessary equipment, organize the scientific research process and create conditions for associates' labor, living and everyday routine. His deputies, colonels Yakov (Iosif) Borisovich Shor and Georgiy Aleksandrovich Tyulin, also made a major contribution to organizing Institute activity in the first years.

The Institute's first table of organization structure included 23 scientific and 20 auxiliary departments and 16 laboratories with an overall strength of 3,318 persons, which indicates that the Institute was created as a major scientific research organization.

Main scientific efforts in the initial period of work were concentrated on research and development both of operational-tactical and strategic missiles as well as of surface-to-air guided missiles. In the mid-1950's the Institute's primary mission was to solve problems of creating intercontinental ballistic missiles, space boosters and artificial Earth satellites. The Institute always was the most authoritative organization in the country in questions of flight theory, ballistics, launch data preparation, and missile and satellite dynamics. The names of remarkable scientist-ballisticians G. Tyulin, G. Narimanov, P. Elyasberg and others are well known in the scientific world.

In 1956 the Institute became the head organization for creating the space command, control and telemetry complex for controlling satellite flights. The technical directors of this work were Institute Deputy Chiefs Georgiy Aleksandrovich Tyulin and Yuriy Aleksandrovich Mozzhorin, who subsequently became lieutenant generals. The increased amount of space research in 1968 required formation of a branch of the Institute, based on which the USSR Ministry of Defense Central SRI of Space Equipment was formed in 1972.

At present the authority of the 4th Central SRI in the RF Ministry of Defense is especially high among industrial organizations and Russian Academy of Sciences institutes. It is one of the leading research organizations, in which 29 doctors and 438 candidates of science work. This ensures a high level of scientific study of timely problems facing the Strategic Missile Troops and Armed Forces as a whole. Suffice it to note that just in recent years the RF Ministry of Defense 4th Central SRI has made a serious contribution to developing the Concept of Strategic Missile Troops Organizational Development Under New Conditions, the system for battle management of the Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, and scientific accompaniment of the modernization and recycling of missile complexes; and to preparing proposals for the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms, conversion of the defense complex and adoption of "dual" technologies.

The State Central Range of Rocket Engineering, today known as GTsP MO RF, was created for testing rocket- propelled equipment in support of ministries engaged in these problems. Specifically it became the pioneer in testing missile complexes. The first commanding officer of the range was Lieutenant General Vasiliy Ivanovich Voznyuk. Great state importance was attached to organization of the range. Minister of Armaments D. Ustinov, CINC Soviet Army Artillery Chief Marshal of Artillery N. Voronov, and Chief of Main Artillery Directorate Marshal of Artillery N. Yakovlev delved deeply into these problems. A special state commission performed a site survey of seven possible areas for locating the range. Kapustin Yar was specified as the location of the range by USSR Government decree. The Ministry of Defense State Central Range became the base for ground and flight tests of all kinds of missiles and a powerful scientific research and test center which also engages in training and preparing missile unit personnel.

Reading the memoirs of participants of those events and documentary materials, you clearly see the similarity with frontline routine: difficult situation, shortage of time for performing new missions, and everyday disorder. "Bare steppe, wormwood, camel's thorn and an occasional milkweed. Essentially no water," wrote Vasiliy Ivanovich Voznyuk, the first range commanding officer. "Fighting men of engineer construction units who had become famous during the Great Patriotic War were arriving train after train. There were trains with supplies and equipment. Families were coming in. Accommodation? In tents and in the best case in little towns along a small stream, the water in which was unit for drinking--it was salty. Sand, gravel and brick for construction, water and food products for the personnel--everything brought in... The work is organized in a frontline way. This method did not have to be mastered, since the majority of soldiers were frontlinesmen." The preparation and conduct of test launches of V-2 rockets, both those delivered from Germany as well as those assembled at Soviet plants from German completing parts and assemblies, became a major event for all range personnel. The first launch of a single-stage long-range ballistic missile occurred on 18 October 1947. Eleven launches were made in less than a month in the first series of tests, which confirmed that the missiles' characteristics conformed to the desired ones and that their series manufacture was possible. The selfless labor of hundreds of thousands of people stood behind all this. Tests of domestic medium-range missiles of all generations, from the R-1 to the RSD-10, subsequently were conducted at the range. Simultaneously with tests of ballistic missiles, work was done at the range in 1954 to develop armament in support of other branches of the Armed Forces, for the Academy of Sciences program, and also for international programs. There were 73 launches of Kosmos series spacecraft, 9 of the Interkosmos series and 9 of a mockup of the Buran reusable spacecraft.

A new scientific-research test range was created in Kazakhstan (now the Baykonur Space Launch Center) in 1955 for tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Structures of this range formed on the foundation of command and staff, engineering and technical personnel who had undergone their development at the Ministry of Defense State Central Range.

In the course of implementing the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, an ecologically harmless methodology of recycling solid-propellant missiles by the explosive demolition method was worked out and implemented at the Ministry of Defense State Central Range in 1987. The first explosive demolition of an RSD-10 missile took place on 28 August 1988. A total of 616 RSD-10 missiles were eliminated at the range in three years.

On the whole, the Ministry of Defense State Central Range collective made an enormous contribution to the establishment and development of the Strategic Missile Troops and to creation of arms for other branches of the Armed Forces.

The first missile formation, a special-purpose brigade (BON), was formed on the basis of one of the guards mortar regiments in July 1946 in fulfillment of the aforementioned USSR Government decree for mastery of missile equipment. Its formation took place in the vicinity of the village of Berka on territory of the Soviet Occupation Zone in Germany under the direction of Major General Aleksandr Fedorovich Tveretskiy. Brigade officer personnel were selected very carefully, with consideration of the specifics of future work: the most intelligent officers were selected not only from guards mortar units, but also from air units, and also the best graduates and post-graduates of military academies. One V-2 was assembled especially for the special-purpose brigade in Germany and classes on the hardware were held on it. All brigade officers underwent training and a probationary period directly at workstations in departments of the Nordhausen Institute, established for studying German rocket building experience.

The brigade was assigned missions of conducting test launches of the first models of guided ballistic missiles, developing fundamentals of combat employment of missile units and subunits and working out operational-technical documentation. The brigade included a brigade headquarters, three launcher battalions, a technical battalion, brigade NCO school, and servicing and maintenance and logistic support subunits.

By the end of November 1946 brigade personnel had completely mastered functional duties in their positions. In December of that same year a special train was attached to the brigade with equipment for preparing and conducting launches of the first V-2 ballistic rockets. Brigade officers, working in close contact with civilian missile specialists, "turned" into military missile specialists. The special-purpose brigade marked the beginning of the formation of missile formations and of new military units armed with guided ballistic missiles. In August 1947 this brigade was redeployed to the Ministry of Defense State Central Range and transferred to its subordination. On 18 October 1947 its personnel took a direct part in the country's first launch of a guided ballistic missile. A memorial obelisk now rises at the launch site. The names of those who took part in this event also are not forgotten. The combat team which conducted the missile launch included operator Engineer-Captain Nikolay Nikolayevich Smirnitskiy (subsequently a lieutenant general and deputy CINC Strategic Missile Troops for Armament); launch team chief Engineer-Major Yakov Isayevich Tregub; Leonid Aleksandrovich Voskresenskiy and Boris Yevseyevich Chertok, deputies to General Designer Sergey Pavlovich Korolev; Nikolay Alekseyevich Pilyugin, chief designer of the guidance and control system; and his deputy Abram Markovich Ginzburg.

In 1948 honorary designations and awards of the 92nd Guards Mortar Regiment were transferred to the special- purpose brigade as a successor and it began to be called the Gomel Order of Lenin, Red Banner, Orders of Suvorov, Kutuzov and Bogdan Khmelnitskiy Special-Purpose Brigade. Major General of Artillery Vasiliy Mikhaylovich Gumirov was appointed as its commander in 1949.

In December 1950 a combined-arms number was conferred on the brigade--22nd Special-Purpose Brigade of the Supreme High Command Reserve (RVGK)--with retention of the honorary designations. It served as the backbone of command and engineering-technical cadres of five RVGK engineer brigades formed during 1951-1953.

The brigade was restationed from the Ministry of Defense State Central Range to the village of Medved, Novgorod Oblast in October 1952 under the plan for operational deployment of RVGK missile formations. Under the direction of Hero of the Soviet Union Major General of Artillery Vasiliy Nikolayevich Ivanov, its personnel successfully coped with missions of building living quarters, a barracks zone, motor pools and a training facility. Officer personnel began successful mastery of a new missile complex with the R-5 missile.

A mission of special state importance to redeploy to GDR territory under the direction of Brigade Commander Colonel Aleksandr Ivanovich Kholopov was an important test in a check of the brigade's combat readiness to perform the missions for which it was intended. The brigade, with organic weapons and military equipment, was covertly deployed to the vicinity of the city of Fürstenberg and the village of Vogelsang in early 1959 and became part of the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany. After withdrawal from the GDR in August 1959, the brigade was redeployed to the city of Gvardeysk, Kaliningrad Oblast, up-armed with the medium-range R-12 missile complex, and in 1960 was reorganized as a missile division. It became part of a missile large strategic formation, the headquarters of which was located in the city of Smolensk, and up to the moment of its disbanding in 1990 honorably performed assigned missions on alert duty in defense of the homeland.

In preparing to celebrate the semicentennial of formation of missile units, we realize more and more clearly that the foundations for solving many scientific problems in the area of creating missiles, nuclear warheads and systems for controlling them, and the principles of alert duty, combat employment and operation of the most powerful weapons were laid down specifically in those years. All this was achieved by the talent and courage of scientists, designers, production workers, builders and missile soldiers under very difficult conditions in the absence of what was most necessary for normal life. They were the ones who laid the foundation for the Strategic Missile Troops, which, thanks to the might of their weapons, are the main component of the Strategic Nuclear Forces, Russia's nuclear missile shield. By possessing and preserving this shield, Russia is guaranteed against military danger no matter from whence it comes. Russia's strategic missilemen recall that Great Patriotic War participants, united a half-century ago by performance of a new and unexplored mission of mastering nuclear missile weapons, stood at the sources of creation of the Motherland's missile shield. The formation of the first missile units is a memorable date not just for servicemen of the Strategic Missile Troops; to no less an extent, this jubilee is close to scientists and engineer- technical personnel of design bureaus and scientific research institutes and to workers of plants and of construction and installation organizations--to everyone who strengthened and continue to strengthen the country's defense capability by their selfless labor.


1. Translator note: the following terms were translated in this article as indicated:
reaktivnyy - rocket, rocket-propelled
reaktivnoye vooruzheniye - rocket-propelled weapons
reaktivnaya tekhnika - rocket engineering
raketnyy - missile 
raketa - missile (except V-2)
raketnoye vooruzheniye - missile weapons
raketnaya tekhnika - missile engineering or equipment