Russia will begin deploying a new type of long-range missile in 2018 to replace a Cold War standby known in the West as "Satan," a military commander said Tuesday, in a signal to the U.S. that Moscow is improving its nuclear arsenal.
A new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, or ICBM, called the Sarmat is being developed to supplant the RS-20B Voyevoda, said the commander of the Strategic Missile Forces, General Sergei Karakayev, Interfax reported.
"We are counting on being armed with this qualitatively new missile system … by 2018 to 2020," he said.
The Voyevoda, whose NATO name is the SS-18 Satan, was developed in the 1970s and the missiles are approaching the end of their service life. Karakayev said some of the ICBMs would remain in service until 2022.
The commander spoke on the anniversary of the creation in 1959 of the Strategic Missile Forces, the military branch in charge of the ICBMs that were the stuff of nightmares in the U.S. during the superpower standoff of the Soviet era.
Russia and the U.S. signed the latest of a series of treaties restricting the numbers of ICBMs in 2010, but Moscow has indicated it will not go further in the near future, citing what it says are potential threats from U.S. weapons systems.
President Vladimir Putin has emphasized that Russia must maintain a strong nuclear deterrent, in part because of an anti-missile shield the U.S. is building in Europe and which Moscow says could undermine its security.
A pro-Kremlin newspaper reported Monday that Moscow has deployed missiles with a range of hundreds of miles in its western exclave of Kaliningrad, alarming the governments of neighboring Poland and the Baltic states.