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V5V rocket
V5V rocket - Dynamic test model of V5V sounding rocket

Credit: © Mark Wade. 7,511 bytes. 70 x 442 pixels.

Family: Early Russian Ballistic Missiles. Country: Russia. Status: Hardware. Other Designations: Pobeda. Library of Congress Designation: T-1. Department of Defence Designation: SS-3 Mod.2. ASCC Reporting Name: Shyster. Article Number: 8K51. Manufacturer's Designation: 8A62M.

The R-5M was the first Soviet missile to be armed with a nuclear warhead, and the first to launch a live nuclear warhead in test. The technical characteristics were virtually the same as those of the R-5 basic model, except for an increase in the propellant load. 48 launchers were deployed from 1956 to 1968, tipped with nuclear warheads of 80 kiloton, 300 kiloton, or 1 megaton.

The explosion of the RD5-6 400 kiloton warhead at Semiplatinsk on 12 August 1953 proved the design of a lightweight thermonuclear warhead. Korolev began work in 1953 to develop a re-entry vehicle for this warhead. Formal authorisation to begin work on a nuclear-tipped version of the R-5 came in a decree of 10 April 1954. Sadoviy and Kozlov were named to lead the project. Based substantially on the R-5, it used the 8U25 launch portable launch stand. The first phase of flight trials were conducted from 21 January to July 1955. Of the 14 launches, 13 were successful. The second phase in August-November 1955 consisted of 10 successful launches at ranges of 1083 to 1190 km. This cleared the way for a final test series leading to the first rocket-delivered test of a Soviet atomic bomb.

The series of 5 launches began on 11 January 1956 with launch of a dummy warhead. The test with a live weapon came on 2 February 1956, with the successful launch of an 80 kiloton (300 kiloton according to some sources) warhead over a 1200 km range - from Kaputsin Yar Area 4N to a point near Priaralsk Karakum, 150 km north-east of the Aral Sea.

The R-5M was accepted by the military on 21 July 1956. Deployment of the missile began in 1956 in brigades of six launchers. Due to the nuclear warhead, specially trained engineering brigades had to be formed. The launch preparations had to be made meticulously and the final launch procedure was automated. Initially it took 30 hours to prepare the rocket for launch, but this was reduced to 5 to 6 hours after several years of service. The rocket had to be launched quickly after loading the uninsulated liquid oxygen tank. The gyroscopic guidance system was supplemented by radio control of the pitch angle of the missile in flight.

To store and install the nuclear warheads special units of the Ministry of Defence were formed. These originated in 1949 as the Sixth Directorate of the Ministry of Military Forces of the USSR. Deployment of the R-5M in 1956 caused the First Military Subdivision, consisting of two brigades, to be formed. The parent organisation was transformed according to a 23 November 1957 decree to the Twelfth General Directorate of the Ministry of Defence, charged with the development, trials, deployment, and security of nuclear warheads. From December 1959 this directorate's activities were limited specifically to safekeeping of the warheads of the RSVN rocket forces. In May 1963, as the number of ballistic missiles deployed increased, a specialised Subdirectorate for Nuclear Operations was formed within the Twelfth Directorate. As of 1965 the warheads were still stored separately form Soviet ballistic missiles. In 1966 the individual nuclear weapons units were made an integrated part of the operational rocket field units. In 1972, as the last open-pad missiles were retired, it was decided to mount all warheads on the silo-based missiles in instant readiness for launch. On 28 November 1974, its operational tasks finished, the 12th Directorate was placed under the Ministry of Defence. In its place the RSVN created a Sixth Directorate for security of nuclear weapons.

A total of 48 R-5M launchers were built, and deployed in brigades of six launchers each or regiments of four launchers each. The basic field unit was the division, each division of two batteries, each with a single launcher. The unit histories were as follows:

By the end of 1956 24 launchers were deployed, increasing to the final total of 48 by the end of 1957. Perhaps 200 missiles were built.

In 1953 and 1955 the Ministry of Defence studied field deployments of the R-1, R-2, and R-5 to East Germany, but nothing came of these studies. A 26 March 1955 decree of the Communist Party ordered deployment of the 72nd brigade to East Germany, and the 73th to Bulgaria, but these were not carried out. Finally a January 1959 a government decree ordered the 72nd brigade to deploy to East Germany for a test deployment.

In 10 May 1959 the first extended field deployment from a field location was undertaken during Army exercises at Simferopol. This was the first field deployment with nuclear weapons in Soviet history and verified the ability of the ballistic missile systems to operate in an integrated manner with the ground forces..

The R-5M was formally accepted into military service in 1960. The missile continued in service until 1968.

Three nuclear warheads were used with the R-5M, apparently all of similar 1350 kg mass: a 40 to 80 kt fission warhead; a 300 kiloton boosted fission or fusion warhead; and a 1 megaton fusion warhead. The R-5M had a propellant capacity 1930 kg greater than that of the basic R-5 - 10,010 kg alcohol, and 13,990 kg liquid oxygen.

Versions of the R-5M were used for technology tests. The R-5RD or M5RD was flown 10 times from 15 February to 18 August 1956 to test subsystems for the R-7 ICBM. From 24 November to 30 December 1956 R-5M's were launched as targets for the V-1000 anti-ballistic missile system.


Payload: 1,350 kg. to a: 1200 km range trajectory. Liftoff Thrust: 43,000 kgf. Total Mass: 28,610 kg. Core Diameter: 1.7 m. Total Length: 20.8 m.

R-5M Chronology

1953 Aug 12 -
1954 Apr 10 -
1955 Jan 21 -
- 1955 July -
- 1955 August -
1956 Jan 11 -
1956 Feb 15 -
1956 Feb 20 - LV Configuration: R-5M. Launch Site: Kapustin Yar .
1956 Jun 21 -
1956 Aug 18 -
1956 Nov 24 -
1956 Dec 30 -
1957 Nov 23 -
- 1959 February -
1959 May 10 -
- 1959 December -
- 1963 May -
- 1966 -
1974 Nov 28 -


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