MOSCOW, February 8. /TASS/. Russia’s Defense Ministry proposed on February 7, 2019 that the United States eliminate its Mk-41 ground-based launching systems, target missiles and attack drones that have the range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km and violate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The US defense attache was summoned to Russia’s Defense Ministry to receive the note.
The TASS Factbox editorial board has put together material on US weapons which, as the Russian side believes, violate the INF Treaty.
The Mk-41 is a universal vertical launching system that can be used for a wide range of missiles, including Tomahawk cruise missiles that have a range capability of 2,500 km. Until recently, the United States positioned Mk-41 systems as solely ship-borne launchers. However, in 2016 the United States started deploying ground-based stationary Mk-41 launchers at the Deveselu military base in the south of Romania and in the settlement of Redzikowo on the Baltic coast of Poland as part of the European element of the US global missile shield.
As the US claims, Mk-41 launchers are used in Eastern Europe solely for the missile shield’s Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) surface-to-air interceptors but the Russian authorities have stressed that these systems can be used for the launch of Tomahawk missiles.
The Hera target missile uses the second and third stages of the US de-commissioned Minuteman-II intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and also the control and guidance systems of Pershing II missiles eliminated under the INF Treaty. It was developed by Coleman Aerospace in the 1990s as part of the theater missile defense program. The Hera is positioned as a target missile for interceptors. However, it has a range capability of 1,100 km -1,200 km and, as Russia’s Defense Ministry says, can be classified as an intermediate-range missile that must be eliminated. The US authorities have never demonstrated this and other target missiles.
The Long Range Air Launch Target (LRALT) and the Extended-LRALT (E-LRALT) missiles have also been developed on the basis of Minuteman-II second stages. They have a striking radius of up to 2,500 km and may also fall under the restrictions of the INF Treaty. The LRALT and E-LRALT target missiles were developed by Coleman Aerospace. Pursuant to their name, they are designed to be air-launched (from the Boeing C-17 military transport aircraft). The US authorities also insist that these missiles are simply targets.
The Medium Range Target (MRT) missile was developed in the early 2000s by Orbital Sciences Corporation and was for the first time tested in 2005. The target missile uses Castor-4B engines and has a range capability of about 1,000 km.
US strike drones MQ-1 Predator (the first flight in 2002), MQ-9 Reaper (2001), Avenger (2009) and others were developed by General Atomics. They have an operating range of over 1,200 km and carry various armaments, including air-to-surface missiles. As Russia’s Defense Ministry says, they actually fall under the effect of the INF Treaty as ground-based cruise missiles.
Since 2013, the US has conducted several test launches from the ground of the modified versions of the airborne AGM-158 cruise missile. It has been developed using the stealth technology. The missile’s baseline version has a range of up to 370 km and its ER (Extended Range) modification can be launched to a distance of 1,000 km. Since 2018, the US has also started the trials (including ground launches) of the AGM-158C anti-ship missile designed, among other things, for its launch from Mk-41 systems.