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The RT-2 (8K98) intercontinental ballistic missile

On May 9, 1965, the 20th anniversary of the victory in the World War II, the Soviet government staged an impressive display of military might. Among several brand-new weapons, rolling through the Red Square that day, Western military attaches in Moscow were stunned to see a missile, which apparently burned solid propellants. As oppose to liquid fuel, the solid-fuel charges could be loaded into the missile for indefinite periods of time, dramatically increasing operational capabilities of a weapon.


A still from footage likely showing a test launch of the RT-2 rocket from Plesetsk.

Shortly before the May 1965 parade, the US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara assured the public that the USSR had no long-range solid-fuel missiles, and, therefore the US Air Force with its compact solid-fueled Minutemen missiles had an edge over the Soviet nuclear arsenal. (155)

McNamara's estimates were based on the observations of the US radar, which could distinguish signatures of solid rocket motors during test flights. Since no solid-fuel missiles had been detected in the USSR, some Western analysts alleged that the show at the Red Square had been a hoax.

The mystery of the first Soviet solid-fuel ICBM was fully uncovered only in the post-Soviet period. The work on the RT-2 ballistic missile started at Sergei Korolev's OKB-1 in 1963. The rocket was a follow-on to the RT-1 intermediate-range ballistic missile.

Although, the prototype of the RT-2 had been displayed during the traditional military parades since May 1965, the missile did not actually fly successfully until February 26, 1966. It was formally accepted in armaments on December 18, 1968. (52) It was retired in 1976.

Known specifications of the RT-2 missile:

Number of stages
Flight range

9,400 kilometers

Length of the vehicle

21.22 meters

Maximum diameter
1.95 meters
Liftoff mass (fueled)
51 tons
First launch 1966 Feb. 26
Test site Kapustin Yar/Plesetsk
Warhead mass

Single 470-kilogram warhead


Read (and see) much more about this and many other space projects in Russia
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The Past Explained, the Future Explored




A still from footage likely showing a test launch of the RT-2 rocket from Plesetsk.

The RT-2 missile rolls along Moscow's Red Square during the Victory Day parade on May 9, 1965. Credit: RKK Energia

Scale model of the silo launch complex for the RT-2 missile. Copyright © 2000 by Anatoly Zak

RT-2 nozzle

15D24P1 solid-propellant engine for the second stage of the RT-2P rocket. Copyright © 2000 by Anatoly Zak