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R-1 Cutaway
R-1 Cutaway -

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Family: Early Russian Ballistic Missiles. Country: Russia. Status: Hardware. Department of Defence Designation: SS-1A. ASCC Reporting Name: Scunner. Article Number: 8A11.

Soviet production copy of the German V-2. Despite the threatening supervision of the program by Stalin's secret police chief, Beria, and the assistance of German rocket engineers, it took eight years for the Geman technology to be absorbed and the missile to be put into service. The difficulties confirm the German's 1946 assessment that Russian industrial technology was fifteen years behind that of Germany. Payload 815 kg. Range 270 km. Maximum altitude 77 km. Time of flight 5 minutes. Max velocity at burnout 1465 m/s. Accuracy 8 km in range, 4 km laterally.

Aside from the service version of the missile, variants were used for technology and scientific tests. From the fifth flight of the R-1A these were equipped with ejectable lateral containers and a separable nose cone for recovery of biological specimens (dogs and rabbits) and other instruments exposed to zero G conditions and altitudes up to 100 km:

The decision to copy the German V-2 missile did not come quickly. Following construction of an initial batch of V-2 missiles in Germany (the N series), and the removal of available German rocket specialists to Soviet territory, Stalin spent some time before deciding what to do with them. It was not until 26 July 1947 that a decree was issued for test of the V-2 missiles at the new rocket test ground at Kapustin Yar. The first test series of 'N' rockets was conducted from September to October 1947. German assistance was required to get the rockets to fire, and then of 10 or 11 launched, only 5 were successful. A follow-on launch of 10 'T' series rockets, completed in Germany at Kleinbodungen, was just as dismal. Only 5 worked, with the others demonstrating a maximum rang of 274 km and 86 km altitude.

A resolution to put into production a Soviet-built copy of the V-2, the R-1, was issued on 14 April 1948. Aleksander Shcherbakov was responsible for seeing that a fifteen year technology gap was bridged. To accomplish this the resources of 13 research institutes and 35 factories were tapped. Glushko was tasked with producing the RD-100 copy of the V-2 engine. Prototypes had already begun factory tests at the end of 1947, with stand tests beginning in May 1948. R-1 test flight trials were accomplished swiftly - ten in 1948 and 20 in 1949. On 25 November 1950 the missile was accepted for service, with the first operational unit the 92nd brigade (BON RVGK) at Kapustin Yar. Things seemed to be going well, but getting the missile in production would be another matter.

The missiles flown so far had been built by Korolev's NII-88 research institute at Podpliki. But Soviet aerospace practice was to assign production to a factory facility. Factory 66 at Zlatoust was selected for this in 1949, with SKB-385 to assume production design responsibility and to develop variations of the R-1 with greater range. But the work dragged on without results, and on 1 June 1951 Beria switched R-1 production to Factory 586 at Dnepropetrovsk. He ordered engine production to begin in two months - even allowing an engineer to blurt out that it would take at least eight months without consigning him to the Gulag. But the engineer was more nearly right, and the first Dnepropetrovsk production R-1, albeit still containing many parts and assemblies fabricated at NII-88, was finally completed in June 1952. First stand tests of production 8D51 engines began on 15 August 1952. The first rocket built completely of Dnepropetrovsk-fabricated parts was rolled out on 28 November 1952.

In field service the rocket required twenty vehicles and four kinds of liquid propellants for the main engine, turbines, and starter (liquid oxygen, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, permanganate catalyst). Six hours were required to prepare the rocket for launch, and CEP was only 1500 m. Another major objection of Red Army Generals - they didn't dare let the troops work with a rocket using alcohol for a propellant...

Nevertheless in December 1950 the first field R-1 unit was formed - the 23th brigade (BON RUGK). Each brigade was equipped with six launchers. In January 1951 the 23rd deployed to Kamishin in Volgograd oblast. Further deployments of this pathfinder unit were to Belokovorovich, Ukraine; Shyalyay, Lithuania; Dzhambul, Kazakhstan, and Ordzhonikidze, the Far East, the Primorsk area. The 77th and 90th brigades were formed at Lvov, Khmelnitskiy, and Zhitomir, Ukraine. In August 1958 they were transferred to the Land Forces. The number of units fielded were small, reflecting the long delay in getting the R-1 into production. The field equipment was designed to also be used for R-2 missiles, which quickly replaced the R-1 in the field units.

A sea launched variant of the R-1, probably similar to the German 'Pruefstand VII' submarine-towed, pod-launched project, was also studied from 1949 to 1950, but not proceeded with.


Liftoff Thrust: 27,690 kgf. Total Mass: 12,798 kg. Core Diameter: 1.7 m. Total Length: 17.0 m.

R-1 Chronology

1946 May 13 -
- 1946 June -
1946 Jun 21 -
1946 Jul 3 -
1946 Jul 14 -
1946 Aug 9 -
1946 Aug 26 -
1946 Aug 30 -
1946 Sep 29 -
1946 Oct 23 -
1948 Apr 14 -
1948 Sep 17 -
1948 Oct 10 -
1948 Oct 11 -
1948 Nov 5 -
1949 May 7 -
1949 May 10 -
1949 May 15 -
1949 May 17 -
1949 May 24 -
1949 May 28 -
1949 Sep 10 -
1949 Oct 23 -
1949 Dec 30 -
1950 Nov 25 -
- 1950 December -
1951 Jan 29 -
1951 Feb 2 -
1951 May 9 -
1951 Jun 1 -
1951 Jun 13 -
1951 Jun 27 -
1951 Jul 22 -
1951 Jul 29 -
1951 Aug 15 -
1951 Aug 19 -
1951 Aug 25 -
1951 Sep 3 -
- 1952 June -
1952 Aug 15 -
1952 Nov 28 -
1954 Jul 2 -
1954 Jul 7 -
1954 Jul 26 -
1955 Jan 25 -
1955 Feb 5 -
1955 Nov 4 -
1956 May 14 -
1956 May 31 -
1956 Jun 7 -
1956 Sep 13 -
- 1958 August -


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Last update 12 March 2001.
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© Mark Wade, 2001 .