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Russia is set to dismantle two of its Soviet-era intercontinental ballistic missiles – still considered the most powerful in the world – this year. The R-36M2 ICBMs are commonly known under the NATO reporting name SS-18 Satan.
Two missiles, currently stored at a military compound in Russia’s Urals, are set to be destroyed by the end of November, Interfax reported citing a contract for their dismantling. The missiles – which have a dry weight of 52 tons – will be dismantled for scrap, since they contain quite a cache of valuable materials.
Each ‘Satan’ contains at least 1.2kg of gold, some 19kg of silver, a few grams of platinum as well as almost 6 tons of ferrous and 20 tons of non-ferrous metals. The rest of the missile – fiberglass, assorted rubber plumbing and other materials are set to be recycled and disposed of as well.
The dismantlement of the two missiles will follow the procedure envisioned in the US-Russian Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New Start), the last arms control agreement still standing. The deal is set to expire in 2021, and while Moscow has repeatedly urged Washington to discuss its extension, the latter has showed no interest in it so far.
The R-36M2 are considered to be the most powerful among the ICBMs, yet the fearsome weapons are already quite old. The ageing Soviet-era missiles are set to be replaced with new RS-28 Sarmat munitions which have already been successfully tested. The Sarmat missiles will be capable of carrying any type of nuclear warhead, including the cutting-edge Avangard hypersonic glider, adopted by Russia’s military in late 2019.