Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile

In another Cold War II salvo, Russian president Vladimir Putin unveiled the details of a new-generation ballistic missile on March 1, 2018, during his address to the National Assembly. The images and footage which accompanied the address showed a vehicle similar to the largest Soviet-era ballistic missile -- R-36M-2 -- known in the West as Satan.

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An apparent silo ejection test conducted at the Plesetsk test site around December 2017, used a mass prototype of the Sarmat missile.

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According to Putin, Russia had begun the active testing phase in the development of the Sarmat missile, which was intended to replace the R-36M-2 Voevoda system, inherited from the USSR and manufactured in Ukraine. Putin said that Sarmat's capabilities were much higher than those of its predecessor.

The Sarmat was reported to be capable of carrying a higher number and more powerful warheads than those on the R-36M-2. The warheads' reentry vehicles were characterized as "hypersonic" and capable of overcoming the most advanced anti-missile defenses. According to information released in 2011, Sarmat was expected to carry 10 warheads with an explosive power of 550 kilotons each. Other sources cited 16 warheads on the Sarmat missile.

The new rocket's liftoff mass was reported to be 200 tons and its flight range was promised to be 11,000 kilometers. An animation accompanying Putin's address advertised Sarmat's ability to attack the Unites States not only via a shortest route across the Arctic Ocean but also flying a much longer route over the Southern Hemisphere approaching the US from the South. However the same capability was long attributed to the R-36M family.

Russia was planning to begin phasing out R-36M-2 missiles, possibly as early as 2022, but at least some of these ICBMs were certified to remain in service as late as 2027.

According to previous reports in the official Russian press, the Makeev State Rocket Center, based in the city of Miass and previously specialized in the development of submarine-based ballistic missiles, was chosen to serve as the prime contractor in the Sarmat project. Prior to 2014, the Makeev center had extensive industrial cooperation with the Ukrainian KB Yuzhnoe, which developed the R-36M-2 ICBM.

The serial production of the Sarmat missile would probably be conducted at the Krasmash factory in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.

The development of the Sarmat missile reportedly started between 2009 and 2011 and coincided with the deterioration of Russia's relations with the West. The decision to build the "new-generation Satan" was not without controversy, because large liquid-propellant missiles were long considered obsolete. For example, the United States long abandoned liquid propellant in its strategic arsenal in favor of compact solid-propellant missiles.

The Sarmat program also encountered various problems with the rocket itself and with its manufacturing base, which apparently delayed its introduction into the armaments years behind the originally planned date of 2016. First throw tests in Plesetsk, which only saw the ejection of a dummy missile from its silo, took place around December 2017, or at least a year later than publicly promised. Around the same time, the first launch of the flight worthy missile was promised before the end of 2018.

During Putin's March 1, 2018, address, the video of the Sarmat's throw test was demonstrated for the first time, however the footage cut to a computer animation immediately after the rocket had been seen leaving its silo in Plesetsk.

The Sarmat missile is named after nomadic tribes that roamed the steppes of present-day Southern Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan in the early medieval period. Ironically, Sarmats were known to terrorize farming communities and towns, which formed the original Russian state, known as Kievan Rus in the 9th century A.D.


The container with the Sarmat missile or its prototype arrives at the launch site by rail.


The container is rolled out off the rail platform onto the road trailer which will deliver it toward the silo.


Front section of the Sarmat road carrier.



Container with the missile is erected into a vertical position before being lowered into the launch silo.


Solid-propelled ejector, PAD, separates from the rocket's aft section immediately after the dummy missile exits the silo.


Sarmat test article in flight during a throw test.

Second ejection test

On March 29, 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced the second ejection test of the Sarmat missile. The trial also included the firing of the first-stage engine as evident in the video footage released at the time.




Third ejection test


The Ministry of Defense released another video of the Sarmat ejection test on July 19, 2018. According to unofficial rumors, the third ejection test took place sometimes around May 26, 2018.

First all-up test

The first test launch of a complete Sarmat missile did not take place until April 20, 2022. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the rocket lifted off from Plesetsk, at 15:12 Moscow Time. At the time, a total of 46 such missiles were promised to be manufactured and at least three additional test launches were planned.

According to various rumors, an unannounced launch of the Sarmat ICBM took place in Plesetsk between Feb. 18 and Feb. 20, 2023, targeting the Kura impact range on the Kamchatka Peninsula, however the vehicle apparently failed to activate its second stage after a normal operation of the first stage. The launch apparently coincided with the visit of the US President Joe Biden to Kyiv, but Russia had notified the US in advance about the impending launch.

Sarmat's engines

It is known that the first-stage engine for the Sarmat rocket would be built at NPO Energomash. The propulsion system would be based on the first-stage engine of the R-36M-2 missile built in Ukraine. The serial production of the engine was expected to be organized at the Proton-PM enterprise in the city of Perm.

The Sarmat's second-stage engine would be developed at the KBKhA design bureau in the city of Voronezh.

Operational deployment

In an interview with the journal Radioelektronnye Tekhnologii that appeared at the beginning of 2020, General Aleksei Krivoruchko, Deputy Minister of Defense, said that the first serially produced Sarmat missiles would be deployed in 2021.

On December 16, 2020, the Commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces Sergei Karakaev said that the Sarmat would be operationally deployed in the Krasnoyarsk Region in 2022. Around the same time, at a meeting of the collegium of the defence ministry, Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu disclosed plans to build a test range for flight tests of the Sarmat missile in the Krasnoyarsk Region in 2021. During his visit to the Krasmash factory in early August 2021, Shoigu promised to begin flight tests of Sarmat in 2021, complete them in 2022 and, during the same year, to deploy the first regiment of the missiles. At the end of February 2024, Putin boasted that Sarmat had already been deployed and promised to soon demonstrate them in operational readiness.


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The article by Anatoly Zak; Last update: March 7, 2024

Editor: Alain Chabot; Last edit: March 6, 2018

All rights reserved

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A depiction of the Sarmat missile circa 2016. Credit: Makeev State Rocket Center


Artist rendering of the separation between the first and second stage of the Sarmat missile.


Sarmat's second stage begins its powered flight propelled by the main engine and four vernier thrusters.


Fairing separates from the second stage revealing the multiple warheads carried by Sarmat.


After the main engine cutoff, vernier thrusters continue to fire for a few second to fine tune the velocity.

stage 3

Following the separation of the second stage, the warhead platform takes over the powered flight further adjusting the trajectory.


Final frames of the animation accompanying Putin's March 1, 2018, address showed multiple warheads descending on Florida.


An undated photo of Sarmat launch circa 2022 or 2023. Click to enlarge. Credit: Roskosmos