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Semen Kabakaev *: Nuclear Arsenal of Russia: State of Tactical Nuclear Weapons and Their Tactical and Technical Characteristics.


Articles

I would probably like to divide my address into several blocks, and not to talk much about tactical and technical characteristics, but rather concentrate on the threats that exist for Ukraine and for us on the part of the Russian Federation.

What do we know now, in 2017, about the number of nuclear warheads in the Russian Federation and possibilities to carry them? At this stage, we know that there are about two thousand tactical charges and facilities for their delivery in Russia. 2,030 - to be precise. In which troops do they use them? These are Navy, Army, and artillery. I would concentrate, apparently, on artillery and aviation, because the threat from the Russian Federation exists on the eastern border, and where the ATO is currently being carried out. And also, probably, the North, because there is Belarus, and there will be exercises there this year, which, it seems to me, need to be carefully considered. If we consider the Air Force, then there are several hundred aircraft such as Tupolev-22M3, Sukhoy-24M, Sukhoy-34 and new Sukhoy-30SM and Sukhoy-35C. As for the Navy, they have something that can be mounted at any ship or destroyer available now in Russia, and therefore I would not really like to emphasize it. But what we have in the Army is very important, and perhaps I will then put a question to the esteemed Phillip Karber, because he is an expert in this topic. And I would like to say, what there is now: they can use Iskanders as carriers (which is perhaps the greatest threat for us), the range is up to 500 km, and in principle, if they put them somewhere in Rostov-upon-Don, - it will cover approximately 80% of the land territory of Ukraine. And these are small 152 mm Msta and Acacia howitzers, which can be put on almost any mortar, as well as Msta-B howitzer.

If we consider the current situation and the state of belligerency, then all mortars, howitzers, and MLRSs available in Russia almost all have been used in the Donbass, including new developments and new engineering complexes. I would pay much attention to this, because the issue of the Russian nuclear threat has hardly been raised in Ukraine in those few years, and I can say from my experience of communication with the military, with the General Staff, the Ministry of Defence, the General Directorate of Intelligence and the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU): almost no one focuses on this, because they do not consider it a threat and do not believe that Russia can use it. And it seems that I do not believe it either, however, it is necessary to be prepared, because we already have got war.

How can we find out where Russia puts, uses, relocates warheads and equipment capable of carrying nuclear charge? And in general, what did we learn in the past three years? As an open source expert, I can say that a lot of information has come about over the past three years. Our state needs to concentrate on what Russia moves and whether it moves anything at all. In my opinion, our state and intelligence should concentrate not only on open sources, but also use space images and other means available for the state. And the SBU should hold a powerful conference on the basis of a national university or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which will give a clear explanation of the threat and whether we can do anything about it.

At the moment, I want to talk about the availability of defence against a possible strike from Russia in our country. In this regard, I want to mention the recent incident in Kharkiv. Probably everyone remembers when an ammunition store exploded a few months ago there. Today I have recalled it because in the case of the use of any nuclear weapon by the Russian Federation, the first strikes will be targeted exactly where there is accumulation of weapons: these are ammunition depots, shooting ranges where our servicemen are stationed. Unfortunately, now there are 2-3, and even 4 brigades at a time at each ordnance yard, and I think this is unacceptable. We believe that, for instance, nothing will happen in Lviv, but we must take into account all factors. I recall the Kharkiv incident also because Kharkiv is a city located closest to Russia. This is the border with Russia; it is a city that has been most vulnerable since 2013 or 2014, as well as Odessa. We are well aware of the situation in these cities. That is why this incident is an example of what may happen, even if Russia does not intend to use nuclear weapons, but would apply any other - all the cities located on the border with Russia will be in such a danger. If it is a nuclear weapon - the consequences could be terrible.

What else do we know about Kharkiv incident? This is the fact that the store was allegedly blown up by means of a drone, which carried a charge. If a drone can cause such damage, then I am terrified to imagine what nuclear weapons can do all across the border with Russia.

In my opinion, we all, as citizens and you, as former employees, can make efforts to raise this issue at the level of the National Security and Defence Council and the Ministry of Defence in order to reconsider the situation that has developed over the past three years and find ways to cope with the challenges we are facing. The state should develop a strategy, and we can help with tactics, because we have been stewing in this for three years already and know what is happening in the country and how Russia acts.

I would like to present performance characteristics of tactical nuclear weapons of the Russian Federation below.

The Russian nuclear arsenal is one of the largest in the present day world.

The strategic nuclear forces of Russia comprise tactical carriers of nuclear weapons: missiles for 203 mm caliber self-propelled howitzers, mines which may have nuclear charges, as well as carriers which can be applied with the help of the Russian Federation Air Force and Navy. Tactical nuclear force of the Russian Federation is formed as follows: land-based (Strategic Missile Troops), naval (strategic missile carrying submarine cruisers, making part of the Navy). Moreover, we should consider the fact that land-based systems can be deployed at the aircraft carriers of the Russian Federation. Also, the Air Force component certainly makes part of the tactical force, consisting of strategic bombers and Air Force aircraft, able to carry cruise missiles with nuclear component [1].

According to the government of the Russian Federation, the Armed Forces of Russia face the task of building nuclear capabilities for a better defenсe of the country: "The main task of strengthening national defenсe in the medium term is the transition to a qualitatively new form of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation with the preservation of the potential of strategic nuclear force through improvement of organizational and personnel structure and the system of the territorial basing of troops and forces, increase of the number of constant readiness units, and also the perfection of operational and combat training, the organization of interbranch interaction of troops and forces."

And it means that Russia is not only going to abstain from abandoning this type of weapons, but will also try to improve units involved in this sphere. There is a respective article in the decree by the President of Russia "On the Strategy of National Security of the Russian Federation until 2020" [2].

Army as a carrier of nuclear charge can use the following modifications of materiel: operational and tactical missile complex Iskander-M, self-propelled guns (203 mm gun Pion / Malka, 152-mm Hyacinth, 152-mm howitzers Msta-S and Acacia, 240-mm Tulip mortars), 152-mm towed howitzers Msta-B, and others.

The specific feature of the Russian approach to nuclear artillery is that special ammunition is unified in standard ammunition lines and does not require specialized adaptation for their use.

The Russian Federation Army and Tactical Nuclear Weapons:

The armament of the Russian Federation comprises such projectiles that may carry a nuclear charge:

152-mm 3BB3 nuclear projectile

- used for 2С19 Mstа-С, 2С3 Acacia self-propelled guns and D-20 towed gun;

- nuclear power capacity: 1 kt in TNT equivalent;

- firing range - 17,4 km;

- developed by Academician O. I. Zababakhin Nuclear Research Centre, Snezhinsk.

3BV1180 mm projectile

- used for 180 mm С-23, МК-3-180 guns (coastal artillery, previously - Navy);

- firing range - up to 45 km.

3BB2 203 mm projectile

- used for 2С7 Pion self-propelled gun, 203-mm howitzers B-4M;

- firing range - from 18 km to 30 km.

3BB4 40-mm mines

- used for towed mortars M-240 and self-propelled mortars 2С-4 Tulip;

- firing range in the normal variant - 9.5 km, in active-reactive one - 18 km [3], [4].

2С7 Pion: intended for suppression and liquidation of nuclear attack facilities, artillery, mortars, materiel, logistics, troop control points, enemy personnel. The running gear of the self-propelled gun is a modernized variant of a running gear of Т-80 tank. The main weapon of the self-propelled gun is 203-mm 2A44 gun weighing 14.6 tons, openly installed in the rear part of the vehicle. The gun was created according to the classic scheme with some innovations. The dismountable gun-tube consists of a free tube, casing, breech piece, coupling, and bushing. This constructive solution has made it possible to significantly simplify the replacement of the rifled part of the gun, making this procedure possible in field artillery workshops. The gun is also equipped with a two-stroke shutter, shunting mechanism, a chain drive charging mechanism with a hydraulic actuator. The assortment of ammunition for the gun is quite diverse: 203-mm 3VOF43 and 3VOF42 rounds with high-explosive projectiles 30F43; 3VOFZ5 rounds with active-reactive high-explosive projectiles 3OF44; 3VOF15 and 3VOF16 rounds with fragmentation projectiles with 3-O-14 ready-made destructive elements. It is also possible to use nuclear warheads, such as: Ricina, Sazhanets. It can shoot with 3BV2 203-mm projectile having a nuclear charge. Pion is also equipped with a mechanical sight D-726, a panoramic one PG-1M, collimator K-1 and a sight OP-4M, necessary for direct laying. As an additional weapon, 9K32 Strela-2 MANPAD and portable anti-tank grenade launcher RPG-7 are used. Pion is capable of being engaged in nuclear-weapons hostilities. It has a filter ventilation unit, an automatic fire extinguishing system, a sealing system for personnel compartments that protects servicemen from the effects of chemical, bacteriological, and nuclear weapons. In addition, the self-propelled vehicle is equipped with TPU R-120 intercom, P-123 or P-123M radio station, TVN-3 night vision device.

Msta-C: the basic ammunition set of 2C19 self-propelled howitzers comprises high-explosive fragmentation projectiles 3ОF45 with a maximum shooting range of 24,7 km, 3ОF64 improved efficiency projectiles, high explosive shells 3ОF61 with bottom blowing gas generator, as well as new 3-O-23 cassette projectiles. The regular ammunition complex of 2С19 self-propelled gun consists of 20 high-explosive fragmentation and 30 active-jet projectiles. Centimeter and Krasnopol trajectory correcting projectiles have been developed for 2C19 to defeat armored vehicles in places of concentration of launchers, long-term defensive installations, bridges and crossings, as well as upgraded Krasnopol-M1 trajectory correcting projectiles with increased firing range and reduced mass and dimensional characteristics, so that Krasnopol-M1 projectiles can be placed in the regular combat ammunition sets of the self-propelled gun without reducing the main ammunition set. In addition, the use of illuminating, incendiary, and nuclear projectiles, as well as radio interference projectiles is envisaged. It is possible to use the entire range of ammunition intended for 152-mm howitzers 2С3 and D-20. 152-mm nuclear shell 3BB3 can be used [7], [8].

Msta-B: shooting from howitzers can be carried out both by direct laying, and from closed positions. The rounds are 152mm separate charging, which are used for Msta-C, D-20, 2C3 Acacia, and ML-20 howitzers. The shooting is carried out with the following rounds: 3VОF58, 3VОF72, 3VОF73, 3VОF91, 3VОF96, 3VОF97, 3VОF98 , 3VО28, 3VО29, 3VО30, 3VDC8, 3VОF64, 3ОF39. In order to increase the range (up to 29 km) for Msta-B specially developed a projectile 3OF61 with a bottom blowing gas generator. The howitzer is capable also of shelling with Krasnopol trajectory correcting projectiles with Laser semi-active homing device. Automated fire control of the 152-mm howitzers is carried out by Faltset or Kapustnik-B complexes.

 All types of separate charging rounds can be used with the howitzer, made for both Msta-B and  Msta-C 2С19 self-propelled gun, as well as for earlier artillery systems of the same caliber, such as howitzer D-20 and ML-20, 2C3 Acacia [9] self-propelled gun [10].

Tulpan mortar: 240 mm self-propelled mortar 2C4 Tulpan, as a means capable of using nuclear weapons and a powerful weapon of destruction in the use of conventional ammunition, was supplied to the arming of certain artillery brigades of the reserve of the Chief Command. 2C4 Tulpan is intended for the destruction of the enemy nuclear strike forces, its fortifications and field-type engineering structures, fortified buildings, hidden living power and equipment, command posts, artillery and missile batteries, and other military materiel inaccessible for grazing artillery fire. In the arsenal there are incendiary Sayda mines with napalm and capable of forming stable hotbeds of fire at an area of 7850 sq. m around the epicentre of the explosion; Nerpa cassette mines, equipped with 3OF16 high-explosive combat elements; 2 kt nuclear mines in the conventional (3BB4) and active-reactive version (3BB11); Smola and Fata neutron projectiles [11], [12], [13].

Acacia self-propelled gun: can shoot with various types of ammunition. The basic ammunition of the self-propelled gun includes high-explosive projectiles (range of shooting exceeding 17 km), projectiles with improved aerodynamic shape, the range of which is 17.4 km, it is possible to use Krasnopol and Centimeter trajectory correcting projectiles. In addition, the self-propelled gun can fire chemical, illuminating, shrapnel and cassette ammunition. Cumulative and armour-piercing shells are used to fight enemy armoured vehicles.

2C3 Acacia self-propelled gun can use ammunition with 1 kt nuclear warhead, the range of shooting makes 17.4 km.

The armament in Russia comprises 152-mm nuclear projectile 3BB3, which suites self-propelled guns 2C19 Msta-C, 2C3 Acacia, and a towed D-20.

It is worth taking into account the fact that this weapon is still registered with the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation. And all modifications of this weapon can be used for firing ammunition equipped with a nuclear warhead. And the total number of nuclear artillery projectiles is classified.

 

Air Force of the Russian Federation and Tactical Nuclear Weapons:

As for aviation, Tupolev-22M3, Sukhoy-24M and Sukhoy-34, as well as the new Sukhoy-30SM and Sukhoy-35S can be a nuclear threat. As of the beginning of 2017, there were about 66 bombers in the Long Range Aviation Command of the Russian Federation, with about 200 cruise missiles of various flying ranges.

Tupolev-22M3: a long-range multi-regime missile-carrier and bomber Tupolev-22M3 is designed for missile and bomb strikes in the operational areas of land and marine theatres of hostilities. Tupolev-22M3 missile armament consists of guided missiles designed to hit large sea and land targets at the range up to 500 kilometers. The armament of the bomber is supplemented with short-range hypersonic missiles aimed to destroy stationary land targets or enemy radars. Six missiles can be placed in the fuselage, four more missiles are suspended under the wing and fuselage. Bombs are placed in the fuselage and on the four joints of the outer suspension. It is envisaged that the aircraft is armed with highly accurate trajectory correcting bombs [15].

Sukhoy-24M:

Tactical and technical characteristics of Sukhoy-24M:

Dimensions: length - 22.59 m, height - 6.19 m, maximum wingspan - 17.64 m, minimum wingspan - 10.37 m, maximum wing area - 55.166 m², minimum wing area - 51,024 m², wheelbase - 8,51 m, the track of undercarriage is 3,31 m. Two AL-21F-FOR jet engines with afterburner, with the thrust in the cruise mode of 76,67 kN and reheat power thrust of 110.29 kN  empty - 22,300 kg, normal take-off weight - 36,000 kg, maximum take-off weight - 39,700 kg, maximum fuel margin in internal tanks - 9850 kg, maximum fuel margin in auxiliary fuel tanks - 6590 kg.

The maximum weight of the combat load on the external suspension is 8,000 kg, maximum speed at sea level (at the ground) – 1,400 km / h, maximum speed at sea level with auxiliary fuel tanks – 1,325 km / h, maximum speed at an altitude – 1,700 km / h, practical ceiling – 11, 000 m, take-off run - 850-900 m, landing run - 800-850 m, maximum operating overload - 6,5 g. Ferrying range with two PTB-3000 auxiliary fuel tanks - 2,850 km, ferrying range with one refueling – 4,270 km. The radius of action at a low altitude with combat load of 3000 kg and two PTB-3000: 570 km. Radius of action at a low altitude with a combat load of 3000 kg without an auxiliary fuel tank: 390 km. Sukhoy-24M can carry at eight points of the outer suspension: free-flying bombs with a caliber of 500-1,500 kg, blocks of unguided missiles, caliber 57-370 mm, trajectory correcting air bombs KAB-500Kr, KAB-500L or KAB-1,500L, "air-to-surface" guided missiles H-23 , H-25, H-28, H-29, H-31, H-58 and H-59 of various modifications; "air-to-air" guided missiles R-60 or R-60М. The aircraft can also carry single usage bomb cassettes, containers for small-sized loads or gun containers SPPU-6 with GSh-6-23M. It was originally adapted to the use of tactical nuclear bombs [16].

The main task of combat aviation is to strike the enemy, destroy its living force, materiel, fortifications, infrastructure objects and other targets. Bombers are divided into strategic and tactical. The task of the latter is to strike the battlefront of the enemy and its closest operational rear.

Sukhoy-34: Sukhoy-34 front-line bomber is designed for bombing tactical and operational rear of the enemy, in any meteorological conditions, day and night, including the use of low altitudes. Also, this aircraft can be involved in air fighting and destroy the enemy aircraft. The airplane was created according to the normal aerodynamic scheme, with a middle wing and an additional front horizontal empennage. Sukhoy-34 has two two-circuit turbojet engines with afterburner chambers and a two-axle vertical empennage. The tail fins are completely reversible.

It can use the following armament: unguided missiles of various calibres; bombs of various types (34 x 100 kg, 22 x 250 kg, 12-16 x 500 kg); guided missiles of the following types (H-25, H-29, H-31P, H-59, H-59M, Alpha, Yakhont, Mosquit); trajectory correcting bombs (KAB-500 and KAB-1,500); missiles of H-59M type; bombs KAB-1,500 (3 pieces); various kinds of radio buoys; missiles of R-27 type (up to 8 pieces); medium range missiles R-77 (up to 8 pieces); short range missiles R-73 (up to 6 pieces) [17].

Also, a cruise missile has been developed in Russia, which can replace H-55 and its variants. The missile is known as the H-101 (it is possible that the variant of the missile with nuclear equipment is designated as H-102). H-102 differs from H-101 only with the warhead. It is possible to install a nuclear warhead at H-102 missile with an estimated capacity of up to 250 kilotonnes. The warhead of H-101 has the weight of 400 kg [18], [16], [19].

Navy of the Russian Federation and Tactical Nuclear Weapons:

The Russian Federation Navy also has nuclear tactical weapons capabilities. Mostly the Navy is threatening with its submarines such as: Kalmar, Delfin, Borey and Akula. But the surface ships have something to surprise. The following are represented in this category: cruisers, destroyers, small missile ships.

Small missile ships of the Russian Federation are designed to fight warships and merchant ships of a likely enemy in the seas and in the near ocean zone. In the course of the combat service, the ships of the project were involved in the implementation of a number of tasks that were not specific to their direct purpose, - provided combat training of submarines, aviation, air defence troops; acted as anti-submarine ships and rescue ships [20], [21].

Small missile ship Mirage:

Displacement: 730 tons.

Dimensions: length: 59.3 m, width - 11.8 m, draught - 3.08 m.

Maximum speed: 34 knots.

Cruising range: 3,500 miles at 18 knots.

Power plant: diesel, 3 diesel engines M-507A, 30,000 hp, 3 shafts.

Armament: 6 launchers of the anti-ship missiles Malakhit (6 missiles P-120),

176-mm gun AK-176, 1x6 30-mm gun AK-630, 1x2 launchers of Osa-M anti-aircraft missiles (20 missiles).

Crew: 60 men strong.

Armed with:

P-120 Malakhit: (the URAV Navy index is 4K85, the US-NATO Military Code - SS-N-9 Siren) Soviet / Russian anti-ship cruise missile. This is an improved modification of P-70 Amethyst complex: an improved guidance system, 1.5 times increased firing range, and there is a possibility of launching from a surface ship. Range of flight: up to 150 km. Mass of warhead: 800 kg.

There is a possibility of installing a special warhead with a mass of up to 2 megatons [22], [23], [24].

The Russian Federation cruisers are armed with P-1000 Vulcan missiles.

The P-1000 Vulcan missile was made while developing a successful anti-ship missile P-500 Basalt.

 Missile P-1000 Vulcan: uses a flight chart similar to P-500 Basalt. Most of the trajectory of the flight of the missile is followed at high altitudes, and near the target it descends and passes the remaining distance at an extremely low altitude (about 15-20 meters), hiding from detection by the radar behind the horizon. Given the larger supply of fuel to the P-1000, the range of its low-altitude section can be increased.

Speed: 2-2.5 M, range of flight: 550-700 km with the mass of the warhead - 500 kg. It is possible to install a nuclear warhead (approximately 350 kilotonnes) [22], [25].

The main carriers of the complex today are cruisers of the project: 1144, submarines of the 949A project and aircraft carrier cruisers of the project 1143 (nominally).

P-700 Granite:

The missile is armed with various types of warheads. It can be either semi-armour-piercing (high-explosive) warhead weighing 584-750 kg, or tactical nuclear one, with TNT equivalent up to 500 kilotonnes.

Speed: 2.5 M. Range of flight: up to 600 km. High noise immunity [22], [26], [27].

Caliber-NK:

There are no reliable data on this missile. It is known that missiles of various classes can be loaded onto a ship [28], [22].

Thus, as of 1 January, 2017, the Nuclear Strategic Force of the Russian Federation had 1926 nuclear warheads (on the ICBM and SLBM) on 544 deployed strategic carriers, the total number of carriers, deployed and non-deployed, amounted to 847.

There were strategic bombers in the structure of the Air Force: 16 Tupolev-160 (12 missiles) and about 30 of Tupolev-95 (up to 16 missiles).

 There were 176 carriers in the Navy at 12 missile carrying strategic submarine cruisers with 752 nuclear warheads.

There were 322 carriers in strategic missile troops with one thousand one hundred and seventy four nuclear warheads (99% are in combat readiness, 96% are ready for immediate launch).

According to foreign expert assessments, there may be the following tactical nuclear weapons in the Russian Federation:

- about 500 tactical nuclear aviation missiles and bombs for Tupolev-22M3, Sukhoy-24M, and Sukhoy-25 aircraft;

- about 300 aviation missiles, free fall bombs and ash cans;

- more than 500 units of sea launch cruise missiles, anti-ship, anti-submarine, anti-aircraft missiles, as well as ash cans, ship and submarine torpedoes;

- about 100 nuclear warheads for missiles interceptors of AB-135 air defence  system and up to 630 nuclear warheads for air defence missile complexes.

 

_______

* Information about the author:

Semen Kabakaev – Head, CASCU, Security and Interaction in Ukraine, Stop Terror coordinator.

 

The article is prepared on the basis of the address at the International Conference "Russian Nuclear Arsenal: Myths, Real Threats and Counteraction to Them".

 

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