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Mikhail Pervov, General Director, Stolichnaya Encyclopedia Publishing House

Tale of Russian Missiles

To foreign publishers and agents

The prominent historian of Russian missile weaponry MIKHAIL PERVOV offers a new five-volume series of his books "TALES OF RUSSIAN MISSILES" for publication abroad.

The books of this series are based on the recollections of Russian designers, scientists, test engineers and military experts who were involved in the development, testing and operation of military missiles and missile systems. The books also make use of archival materials and rare printed matter.

The five books contain stories about Russian military missiles from the time of their first appearance through the 1970s.

Most of the materials and photographs are unique and published for the first time.

We offer you "AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK SERIES” and excerpts from MIKHAIL PERVOV’s books "THE TALES OF RUSSIAN MISSILES" which are due to appear in Russia in the Russian language in late 2011.

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tale of russian missales

Launching the V-880 missile from the S-200VM (SA-5, Gammon) air defence system. Photo supplied to Stolichnaya Encyclopedia Publishing House courtesy of the Almaz-Antey Concern's primary design bureau

"Tales of Russian Missiles" is a series of books about the creation, production and operational service of both well-known and unknown Russian-made military missiles, jet projectiles and missile systems designed for, used by, and retired from Russia's Strategic Missile Force, Air Defence, Navy, Air and Ground Forces. All the books of the series, except the first one, are based on recollections of veterans of industry and the armed forces, i.e. researchers of design bureaus and research institutes, test engineers of the Defence Ministry's proving grounds, representatives of manufacturing plants and industrial associations and commanders of military units.

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Launching the UR-100N UTTKh (SS-19, Stiletto) intercontinental ballistic missile). Photo supplied to Stolichnaya Encyclopedia Publishing House by courtesy of the VPK NPO Mashinostyroyeniya Engineering Research and Production Association

The first book of stories about events from the distant past is based on archival materials and past publications. It opens pages of the history of the development and operational use of some Russian-built missiles. The issue of operational use of systems described in the subsequent books was outside the the bounds of the narrative, since the author did not have this objective.




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Launching the RVV-AE missile of the K-77 (AA-12, Adder) air-borne system from a fighter. Photo supplied to Stolichnaya Encyclopedia Publishing House by courtesy of the Agat Institute of Moscow

Archival materials do not play an important role in the subsequent books of the series. The bulk of archival documents was lost during company liquidations, restructuring and mergers due to overcrowding of archive premises. Many documents were destroyed upon termination of development and pursuant to the company executives' orders issued due to certain circumstances. Test launches used to be filmed, but most of the footage has disappeared.

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Launching the 9M83 missile of the S-300V (SA-12A, Gladiator) air defence system. Photo supplied to Stolichnaya Encyclopedia Publishing House by courtesy of the Research Institute of Electrical Engineering

The history of Russian rocketry was accompanied by many conflicts that arose from differences between and incompatible positions of the parties involved. In reports submitted by industry officials and defence ministry functionaries to the country's leaders, one can find various timeframes for commencement of research and development, as well as for establishing series production. Controversy also exists in information about different stages of tests with different names, about varying numbers of launches of the same missiles, including successful ones, and dissimilar specifications for similar products. The industry officials' reports often present a greater number of successful launches than those made by the defence ministry functionaries. The test stages described by industry officials as final are presented by the defence ministry functionaries as preliminary.

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Launching the R-29RMU2 Sineva (SS-N-23, Skiff) ballistic missile. Photo supplied to Stolichnaya Encyclopedia Publishing House by courtesy of the Academician Makeyev Missile Centre

Special care must be exercised in dealing with archival materials concerning the accuracy of test firings given that the industry ministries' reports often presented not average, but individual best results, whereas the Defence Ministry's data, inversely, contained references to excessive deviations. The resolutions of the CPSU and the USSR Council of Ministers, issued on the basis of those reports are also full of contradictions. The CPSU and Council of Ministers resolutions on the commencement of development of particular missile systems were sometimes issued right before tests, a few years after the development actually started.

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Launching the 3M9M missile of the Kub air defence system (SA-6, Gainful). Photo supplied to Stolichnaya Encyclopedia Publishing House by courtesy of the Tikhomirov Institute

The essence of many events described in the archival documents became clear only in the context of witnesses' detailed comments. The author heard on more than one occasion recollections about how reports had been re-written twice or even three times under pressure of superiors in order to "look right." Hundreds of thousands of such documents are preserved in the Russian archives to this day.

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Launching the SH-08 short-range interceptor missile in unguided mode. Balkhash Proving Ground. 2 October 2002. Personal photo of Mikhail Pervov

The memory of eyewitnesses is not ideal and their appraisal of history is by no means impartial. Many of the participants in these events have died and it is impossible to piece together the complete picture of the past. Nevertheless, supported by archival data, the recollections contribute to restoration of a reliable truth.






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Launching the Bulava ballistic missile (SS-NX-30). Photo supplied to Stolichnaya Encyclopedia Publishing House by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Engineering

The completeness of each story depends on how completely the contemporaries' recollections have reached us. Without claiming scientific thoroughness, fullness of detail and a strict chronological sequence, the author has tried to present what he has heard and recorded in a popular form of historical stories. In doing so, he sought to practice exacting care and historic impartiality.





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Launching the Yars intercontinental ballistic missile from the Krona facility. Photo supplied to Stolichnaya Encyclopedia Publishing House by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Engineering









You are reading excerpts from a new series of books by Mikhail Pervov "Tales of Russian missiles"


Information about how missiles appeared in Russia is scarce and fragmentary. From 1607 to 1621, pursuant to the order of the Russian tsar Vasily Shuisky and then tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich, an official of the ambassadorial office of the Grand Duchy of Moscow Onisim Mikhailov (Anisim Mikhailovich Radishevsky) was engaged in drawing up "The charter of military, ordnance and other matters". For the first time in Russian literature, "The charter" mentioned rockets, as well as providing data on the hardware, manufacture, storage and operational use of incendiary and signal rockets. However, "The charter" by Mikhailov was not a self-standing work, but a digest based on foreign military books. "The charter" contained no information on the manufacture and use of missiles in Russia.

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Title page of the first part of "The Charter of Military, Ordnance and Other Matters Related to Warfare Sciences" by Onisim Mikhailov. An exhibit of the Museum of Peter the Great Strategic Missile Forces Academy

In the early 18 century, the manuscript of "The charter" was lost. It was only in 1775 that duke Potyomkin found it again while ovens were remade in the Kremlin Armory. However, the supporting drawings had been lost irretrievably. The first part of "The charter" was published under "the supervision of the assessor Ruban in St Petersburg at the State Military Collegium in 1777". The second part appeared in 1781. In an introduction to it, Ruban wrote: "May it please the eye of a lover of Russian antiquity as he beholds this remnant saved from ruin and enjoying a new life by virtue of print". Thus, Ruban realized full well that Mikhailov' Charter was hopelessly obsolete, useless as a manual of artillery and missile service and that it was interesting only as an artifact of history.

Mikhailov entitled the chapter about missiles as "The science of cannon balls that bounce and burn". This is how he described the method of manufacturing an antique missile: "Take five measures of saltpeter, two measures of sulphur and one measure of coal. Use this to make some powder. Then take the same amount of dust and mix this all thoroughly. Wet the powder with good wine or wine vinegar and then make small bags from those…"

In 1709, a book entitled "The latest basis and practice of artillery" by artillery captain Earnest Brown published in Gdansk in 1687 was translated into Russian and printed in Moscow. In the final sixth part of the book "About funny things on earth and water, and how to make and enjoy them" the author described the design of wooden machines for bouncing fun missiles. He relates about how to make missile packets from thick paper and fill them with a powder mixture. He supplies recipes of black (ground powder, saltpeter, sulphur and coal), white (saltpeter, sulphur, coal, ground copper) and blood-red (ground powder, saltpeter, lime tree charcoal, amber) missile powders.

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A title page of the book by Ernest Braun "The Newest Fundamentals and Practice of Artillery." Published in Gdansk in 1687. Translated into Russian and printed in Moscow in 1709. An exhibit of the Museum of Peter the Great Strategic Missile Forces Academy

In 1771, a book on "The instruction and practice of artillery, or the distinctive description of artillery as employed today" by artillery lieutenant Johan Sigmund Buchner, a Saxon elector, was translated and published in Moscow. In the second part of the book the author…

… More detailed and reliable information concerning the creation of missiles in Russia is associated with Peter the Great's activities. An impassioned enthusiast of festival fireworks, he encouraged their organisers in every way and facilitated expanded production of the powder.

Under Peter, pyrotechnic rockets evolved. The word "pyrotechnic" is derived from the Greek where it means "skill in firing". The pyrotechnical compositions feature slow burning, which is required for manufacturing fireworks, illumination and signal rockets, as well as other types of missiles.

Slow burning contributes to firing effects of dazzling beauty.

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A Russian pyrotechnic missile

The first pyrotechnic rockets were primitive things. A tube, back then referred to as "the shell", was made from special paper used for dry and loose compounds. One tip of the shell was held down tightly with a string so that an orifice was left for emission of powder gases. Two thirds of the shell was filled up with powder. That was the so called propelling compound (force supplier). One third of the shell was filled with a pyrotechnic compound for illumination. Following the filling, the top of the shell was held down fully with a string and glued over.

In 1680, a missile works was set up in Moscow for manufacturing pyrotechnic rockets. Tsar Peter was fond of making rockets and launching them. For this purpose, he used to invent various powder compounds. Written sources testify that the first fireworks (called fire fun in those times) were arranged by Peter in …



At the close of the 18 century, the Indians, who needed light, inexpensive and effective weapons to fight the British on the Subcontinent, brought combat missiles back to life, improving somewhat on the fireworks rockets of long ago. The fiercest skirmishes with the English colonisers occurred in India's Mysore province. Haider Ali Khan, the Rajah of this province, was the first to realise the importance of missiles for combat operations. He created a dedicated corps of missile men, i.e., infantrymen armed with rocket-like arrows. In 1782, the corps numbered 1,200 archers.

Following the death of Haider Ali Khan, his son, Tippoo Sahib, continued his cause. He increased the missile corps to 5,000 men. Once the British troops assumed combat position, Tippoo Sahib's missilemen shot thousands of arrows at them. Hitting the columns, they killed hundreds of the attackers, spreading panic among them. After a number of embittered fights, in 1799 the Britons launched an assault on Seringapatam, the capital of Mysore province. Here the Indians used a large quantity of combat missiles. The British sustained heavy losses, but they did take the town.

Tippoo Sahib's missiles had shells made not from paper, but from sheet metal. They featured a bamboo tail (a fin) linked to the shell by a wire. The incendiary head was a sharp-nosed shell resembling an arrowhead.

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A missile and missile launcher designed by William Congreve

The Indian missiles, and especially the possibility of using them for combat, interested the English general William Congreve. Having studied the design of operational powder missiles, he established their manufacture in …






In 1914, the Russian artillery general Alexander Zasyadko became interested in rocketry and started designing powder-propelled missiles. It is believed that he and other Russian officers got the idea of using such missiles from the combat operations of the Patriotic War of 1812, namely, after the battle of Borodino. It is hard to assert with confidence, but the conjecture is not totally groundless.

On 26 August, 1812 (here and further on in the text the quoted dates are presented according to the Gregorian calendar), the Russian and the French armies, totaling over 250,000 men, came together on an area of 50 square kilometers near Borodino village between the Old and New Smolensk Roads leading to Moscow. A huge amount of manpower and weapons of the opposing sides was concentrated on a small, but open and even terrain. This circumstance led the military to believe that the amassed enemy force might sustain catastrophic losses if hit by missiles on a massive scale. Shocking results could be obtained despite the short range and insufficient accuracy of missile fire.

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An incendiary rocket with lateral fin as designed by Alexander Zasyadko

Drawing on the vast experience of Russian fireworks, Zasyadko set his sights on turning the fun fireworks into a formidable weapon. Not receiving material aid from the government for his experiments, he sold the estate he inherited from his father and set to work using the proceeds. In early 1817, Zasyadko brought his missiles and launchers to St Petersburg and …





… Soviet historiography considered general Alexander Zasyadko to be the creator of Russia's first combat missiles even though this ran counter to many facts. However, the merits of Zasyadko are hard to overestimate. He was and will remain a military leader, a war hero and an author of Russia's first operational manual for use of missiles. However, familiarisation with the testimony of many and comparison of data make it possible to safely assert that the creator of Russia's first missiles for use as a weapon was the Englishman Messingberde-Turner and that they were manufactured using William Congreve's method.

Zasyadko's experiments eventually failed without producing combat missiles. In 1823, in order to eliminate the lag in missile engineering, the English engineer Turner was invited to Russia for the purpose of organising the Congreve combat missile production. To this end, a laboratory of the powder production plant near St Petersburg was made available to him.

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An incendiary rocket without fin as designed by William Congreve

Zasyadko worked on missiles with lateral fins. Such an arrangement was most widely used in Austria, which is why it was called the Austrian layout. The Congreve missiles, chosen by Turner, featured central fins. This layout was named English and many considered it more advanced. However, back then nobody knew which layout should be preferred, so Turner was commissioned to develop both.

The lateral fin, as its name suggests, was fitted to the side of the shell and did not hamper …



You are reading excerpts from a new series of books by Mikhail Pervov "Tales of Russian missiles"


In 1817, a fierce and bloody war began in the Northern Caucasus which lasted, as per Russia's official information, till 1864. Unofficially, however, it never ceased, now subsiding, now breaking out again, depending on either right or wrong or blatantly illogical actions of the rulers of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, or the newly formed Russia. Those actions stemmed from the Russians' inherent arrogance and deplorable ignorance of the history of their own country.

To protect Russia's interests in the Northern Caucasus, the Caucasian Independent Corps was formed, one of Russia's most combat-effective units over a long period of time. Among its commanders was the renowned general Aleksey Yermolov. When he took over the corps, it numbered 12,000 men, which then was considered sufficient for putting down the recalcitrant Chechens, Lezgians and Avars who, as it happened, were also at loggerheads with each other. The total Russian force stationed in the Caucasus was much stronger.

Before long, Yermolov realised that the pacification of the mountaineers, if at all possible, would take much time and effort. However, Emperor Alexander I and his retinue demanded quick victories. So, the fighting general set about crushing the violent rebellions with unsparing cruelty, believing that "only by sword and blood are kingdoms created, just as people are born in torture". In response, new uprisings broke out.

Once Nikolai I ascended the throne, Yermolov's position was shaken. Previously, Grand duke Nikolai Pavlovich served as a brigadier commander of YermOlov's Guards Division. During the Russian troops' stay in Paris, the Grand Duke and his friends visited a restaurant where he got drunk, behaved badly and molested French women. Learning this, general Yermilov reprimanded him in public regardless of his title. Nikolai swallowed the insult, but harbored malice.

At the very end of August 1826, general Ivan Paskevich arrived in the Caucasus. Like Yermolov, he was a veteran of the 1812 War. He had served with the Second Western Army of General Prince Peter Bagration. He was famous as a brave and thoughtful officer and, what mattered most, as the Emperor's favourite.

Many regarded his appointment as a time bomb. Yermolov remained the sovereign's deputy in the Caucasus, whereas Paskevich was put under his command with a mission to somehow relieve his burden. Formally, two jobs, previously assigned to one man, were now entrusted to two, just to make things easier for them. However, Yermlov understood that once he plunged into the affairs Paskevich would ask for the full power and would get the Emperor's support in this claim. Differences arose between the two generals which affected the corps's operation. But Baron Ivan Dibich, Chief of the Russian Army General Staff, another favourite of the tsar's, stood firm for Yermolov. Heeding his opinion, Nikolai decided not to remove Yermolov from his office.

In order to support Paskevich, general Benkendorf, a brother of the Russian gendarmerie chief, arrived in the Caucasus. The situation became still more tense. To defuse it, in February 1827 Baron Dibich came to Tiflis (Tbilisi), where the corps headquarters was stationed. A little more than a year previously, Dibich was the first to write an official report to Nikolai about the disclosure of the Decembrists' plot. Since then he was one of the closest servicemen in the tsar's retinue. With his arrival in the Caucasus, everyone expected the final solution of the problem.

First of all, Dibich paid a visit to Yermolov. This infuriated Paskevich but he kept close to Benkendorf. The latter intensified his writing of denunciations against Yermolov, which he regularly sent to the Emperor. Finally, Nikolai ended this unbearable state of affairs. In late March 1827, he recalled Yermolov and gave all the authority to Paskevich, who soon started to gather the corps troops at the Persian border.

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A team of missile men of the Russian Army's Caucasian Separate Corps

In August, Abbas-Mirza, the son of the Persian Shah, moved his troops to Erevan in order to assist the garrison of the Erevan fortress. The siege was laid by general Krasovsky. Scatted all over the Caucasus, the corps force was insufficient, which is why Krasovsky got only a small detachment reinforced by a group of missile men under the command of second lieutenant Kovalevsky. When Abbas drew close, the position of Krasovksky became difficult and then desperate. Here, at Ushagan a battle took place in which Krasovsky's detachment and Kovalevsky's missilemen fought the troops of Abbas-Mirza. In this battle …






Starting a new war against Turkey, emperor Nikolai planned simultaneous actions of the army on two fronts, the Danube and the Caucasus. But he did not expect and was not prepared for fighting on three fronts. England and France, disgruntled and displeased by the Russian emperor's policy and anxious over Russia's growing influence in the Balkans, joined Turkey and declared war on Russia. In autumn 1854, the Crimea became the third and principal front.

Russia's obsolete wooden sailing ships could not oppose British and French steel steamers. Some of the ships of the Black Sea Fleet were sunk at the entry into the Bay of Sebastopol to prevent entry by the foe’s ships. On 1 September, having bypassed Sebastopol, a three thousand strong assault force of Britain, France and Turkey took Yevpatoria. This enabled the subsequent invasion by an 80,000 strong army of the allies. On 8 September, striving to stop the advance, the Russian troops gave battle to the allies on the Alma river.

As the engagement began, the catastrophic backwardness of the Russian army became obvious. Armed with the newest English-made carbines whose firing range and rapidity exceeded by three to four times those of the Russians' weapons, the allies literally mowed down the Russian troops, keeping them at a distance from which they couldn't fire a single effective shot from their antiquated guns. Neither bravery nor daring helped the poor Russian soldiers. They died by the hundreds.

Having assessed the situation, the commander-in-chief Prince Alexander Menshikov decided to save the day by a bayonet charge and ordered a headlong offensive despite the withering fire. Hoping to overpower the enemy in a bayonet fight and get even here with the foe, the Russian battalions fiercely rushed into combat. But the rifle fire was so heavy they had to withdraw with huge losses. The Russians had never before sustained such a high rate of fire. The bayonet charge for which they so much hoped and which the English and French so feared, got bogged down.

Saving his troops from the rout, Menshikov withdrew not to Sebastopol, but Bakhchisarai, where he set up his headquarters. Thus the road to Sebastopol was opened to the foe. The land defence of Sebastopol was headed by Navy Admiral Pavel Nakhimov and Vice Admiral Vladimir Kornilov. Adjutant General of Engineers Eduard Totleben supervised engineering activities.

The seaport of Sebastopol was not prepared for ground defence. It was only after the Alma defeat that the town’s defenders started building a line of defence bastions. Nakhimov and Kornilov used the ships' crews to reinforce the town garrison.

Kornilov issued a strict order to the garrison. "We will fight to the last man. With the sea at our backs, we have no place to withdraw. I forbid all chiefs to beat retreat; the drummers must forget this drum pattern. Should any of the military commanders order a retreat, you must stab him; stab the drummer venturing to produce this disgraceful tune. Comrades, if I order you to retreat, disobey me! And he is a villain who will not kill me for doing so".

Reviewing the troops regularly, the indomitable Kornilov, instead of the normal "Hello, fellows!" greeted them with "You must die, chaps! Will you die?" The troops responded as one man: "We will, sir! Hoorah!!!" The fearless admiral (on land he had the rank of adjutant general) was wounded on Malakhov Hill and died on 17 October 1854. Admiral Nakhimov, too, sustained a lethal injury in the defence of Sebastopol and died on 12 July 1855.

The situation of besieged Sebastopol continued to deteriorate. Life in the town was just a struggle for survival. The defenders were short of shoes, horses, cannon balls and cannons, of clothing and food. Shoes were stripped off the dead. With guns it was harder. The obsolete, low-power, bulky and heavy cast iron guns were eagerly sought for in Sebastopol but to no avail. New ones could not be supplied. The emperor managed to start the war with embezzled coffers, stalled industry and depleted treasury. The only things in abundance were chaotic confusion, impassable mud, reckless heroism and self-denial of soldiers, warrant officers, officers and generals.

In May 1854, several months before the allies' landing in the Crimea, Prince Menshikov, knowing the limited capabilities of his artillery, asked for long-range missiles in order to bombard the foes’ vessels from the shore. The St Petersburg-based rocket manufacturing facility had not mastered the technology making 4-inch rockets and could not produce rockets with an effective range of 3,000 metres as Menshikov demanded. They had long been series produced, however, by British and French industry. All the facility could then supply were just 600 small-caliber 2-inch missiles with an effective range not exceeding 1400 metres and 8 launching units for them. The lot was intended for the Caucasus corps but went fully to Sebastopol.

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A missile fitted with a central fin and a missile launcher used in the defence of Sebastopol

On 1 September, an officer of the St Petersburg facility, Lieutenant Shcherbachev, arrived in Sebastopol with a shipment of rockets and launchers. The rockets were stored at the artillery depot. The efficiency of using 2-inch missiles for fighting the foe ships was practically nil. Seeking to somehow help the Sebastopol garrison, Shcherbachev asked Kornilov for permission to use missiles. On hearing the report, Kornilov wished to see them in operation for himself. On the outskirts of the town, Shcherbachev launched 10 missiles at an old wooden barge. Unluckily, none of them hit the target. Displeased, Kornilov waved his hand, saying with conviction that he would not give Shcherbachev either equipment or people who were otherwise all busy with more important jobs…



You are reading excerpts from a new series of books by Mikhail Pervov "Tales of Russian missiles"


In March 1850, Colonel Konstantin Konstantinov was appointed commander of the missile production facility in St Petersburg. His mission was to establish mass production of high quality missiles for the Russian Army and Navy. Almost simultaneously he was appointed chief of the Okhtinsk Primer Cap Production Works and supervisor of the Okhtinsk Pyrotechnic School.

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Konstantin Konstantinov

As early as 1 October 1840, Konstantinov, then an assistant to Robert Vinspier, was sent abroad to "gather useful information related to artillery". Major General Vinspier was an artilleryman, decorated with the Order of George, third class, for valor in the Battle of Borodino; this was a very rare decoration for top officers. Over the course of a number of years, he performed the Emperor's important diplomatic missions abroad.

During his four-year tour of duty, Konstantinov visited a number of advanced industrial enterprises in Europe. Upon returning home, he received the post of a master of a school of foremen and apprentices in the production of powder, saltpeter, and sulphur at the powder production facility in Okhtinsk. Subsequently, the school was converted into the Pyrotechnic School. A year later, he went abroad again to study powder production. When he returned, he arranged a number of dazzling fireworks displays.

Upon assuming his post, Konstantinov inspected the St Petersburg missile production facility and was aggrieved by the complete lack of mechanisation and the large number of manual operations. Fourteen shabby buildings housed 60 workers. According to a cooperation agreement, the St. Petersburg facility received a gun powder compound from the Okhtinsky Gunpowder Factory. At Okhta, they manufactured high power gunpowder and then, under the supervision of an official from the St Petersburg facility, transformed it into a paste. Upon delivery to the facility, the compound was thinned and carbon was added to it in order to reduce its power. The carbon and paste were blended in four mixing drums, and this dismayed Konstantinov beyond description.

The drums were kept in an unheated room, since using ovens close to the powder compound was extremely dangerous. Eight workers rotated the drums, though by that time all of Europe's developed facilities of this kind had replaced the previously used horses with steam engines. In winter, people worked in the cold. They were separated from the drums only by a thin partition, so one wrong movement could blow them up. Lethal explosions occurred rather often at the facility. Therefore Konstantinov ordered that people be placed far away from the drums in a warm room and that an earthen bank be raised for safety purposes. Having resolved the labour protection problem, he took up the issue of product quality. Missiles manufactured by the facility …




"They often ask us a question," wrote Konstantinov "about the secret of missile manufacture. Usually those who ask this believe that the whole secret is in the missile propellant compound. Contrary to this widespread belief, I must say that the secret of making missiles lies primarily in having fabrication methods which produce identical results not only in terms of size of various parts of the missile, but also relative to the physical and chemical materials from which those parts are fabricated. Finally, there is the issue of how convenient it is to carry out many tests of the current product to the extent necessary without losing time. Once it becomes possible today to manufacture a missile strictly identical to the one manufactured yesterday, and as soon as a testing ground is available, every prerequisite and precondition is created for producing better missiles".

For non-stop work, the missile factory needed a large proving ground where it could conveniently test each batch of missiles for most of the year. The St Petersburg missile facility did not have this. Missile test launches in cold and snowy winters were out of the question. Work ceased during this time.

Practically all commanders of the Russian troops stationed along the Empire's Asian and European borders regularly placed orders for missiles. The Petersburg facility just as regularly failed to meet delivery dates and shipped a smaller quantity of missiles, since it was unable to execute orders fully and on time due to the backwardness of its production. The Chief Artillery Directorate of the Army ignored all this. It neither interfered with nor supported the as-is situation, considering that at one point the military commanders will get their fill, applications would stop coming, and the missile production would die a natural death to the joy of the regular artillery. All the facility's solicitations for procuring new machines and mechanisms were declined.

One day, while travelling by the Tsarsloye Selo railroad, the Emperor saw a rather ungainly looking factory. "What's that?" he asked. Upon which he was told: "This is the Petersburg missile facility."

The Tsarskoye Selo railroad was the Russian Empire's pride and its first railroad built pursuant to imperial decree. The unsightly buildings were an eyesore. Moreover, the physical proximity between the missile facility and the railroad presented a serious danger. Nikolai I magnanimously ordered to look for a new place. But where?

Supporting the missile production in every way, Caucasian Corps Commander Prince Vorontsov took an interest in the problem and proposed moving it to the town of Georgiyevsk. The Georgiyevsk fortress was established in 1786 on what is today the region of Stavropol to defend Russia's southern outposts. Vorontsov believed that the relocation to Georgiyevsk would save missiles from the ruinous transportation. He brought their production as close to the permanent theatre of operations as possible.

Georgiyevsk suited the military but did not suit industrialists. The mild southern climate was fit in every way, but a river was needed as a source of cheap energy. The military's proposal to establish several missile assembly facilities in the field was also rejected. Previous wars showed that the complex and dangerous process of missile assembly in unsuitable conditions was impossible. For this purpose, the industrialists chose the outskirts of Kiev, on the left bank of the Dnieper. Soon, however, for a number of reasons, this alternative was rejected.

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A launching unit for illumination rockets manufactured by the Nikolayev Missile Factory

Location of the Petersburg facility remained unresolved.







You are reading excerpts from a new series of books by Mikhail Pervov "Tales of Russian missiles"


The progress in metallurgy and chemistry gave rise to rifled barrelsguns and smokeless pyroxylin powder which substantially increased the firing range and accuracy of small arms and artillery rounds. It also cured the main deficiencies of smooth- bore arms using smoke powder munitions. The rifled barrels and smokeless powder literally revolutioniszed the military science and produced, in their turn, completely new types of weapons like rapid fire cannons and machineguns which dramatically changed the capability of the world's armies and had a significant impact on the tactics and strategy of war.

The efficiency of missile weapons, however, did not change. The missile strike dispersion pattern was erratic and the firing range was insufficient. The unreliable design made such weapons dangerous to use. In the 1860s, the mean aimed firing range of combat missiles did not exceed 500-600 meteres. The maximum range could be longer, but to the detriment of accuracy. Watching the slow progress of missile engineering, the artillerymen weretook missiles skeptical about missilesly and did not believe they could be used on a large scale.

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Launching a Russian war rocket as engineered in 1866

Most shipments of missiles went to the Caucasus, Central Asia and Siberia. Upon tTaking delivery, the military district commanders invariably complained about the low quality of the weapons and started lobbying tohe stoppage of theirits production. They became all the more vocal as transition began to rifled artillery.

All the military district commanders unanimously were of the opinioned that even the Army's most widely used two-inch missiles could be good, which is why production of their own and other combat missiles' production must be stopped. They only differed overpondered on whether the already manufactured missiles should be stored at depots or disposed of. They all admitted that the missiles could not be employed in a conflict against the a regular and organised foe army of an enemy, noting that undisciplined hordes of infantry and cavalry, against whom such missies could be used were, are becoming things of the past.

On 16 January 1886, the Artillery Committee of the Russian Army Chief Artillery Directorate decided to …




The Russian army had used the black smoke powder for nearly 500 years, from 1395 through 1892. Cheap and simple to manufacture and use, it was the only fuel for gun rounds, artillery shells and a multitude of missile types. Its composition includeds coal, saltpeter and sulphur. In this compound, the coal was the burning matter, saltpeter was an oxidant and sulphur a retardant added tfor reduceing the burning rate and avoid accidentaldetrimental explosions.

Notwithstanding itsDespite a number of advantages, the black powder has a number of drawbacks, the most serious one being incomplete combustionburning. Around tTwo-thirds of thehe combustion products of this powder are contain around 2/3 of solid coal particles, which mainly accounts for clouds of black smoke whenin firing. This drawback cannot't be cured since in this case coal would have to be removed from the compound, and thenfollowing which the smoke powder would cease tostop to be what it is.

The effects of this drawback are as follows. Solid particles of the burnt powder reduce the gas emission rate and this which prevents the shell or missile from reaching a high speed of flight as required for long-range firing. Smoke clouds disclose the fierers' whereabouts of the artillery and elicit immediate return fire of the provoke the foe's immediate firing response. Smoke clouds preclude rapid firing as targeted firingaimed shooting is only possible only after the first shots's’ smoke disperses. And, finally, the smoke fouls the artillery barrel therebywhich necessitatinges regular cleaning and renderingmakes uninterrupted non-stop fireing oin the battlefield impossible.

For Over a long period of time, these drawbacks of smoke powder were considered to be very serious. Paradoxically, smoke powder hampered the development of long-barreltube artillery and simultaneously contributed, for some time, to the development of missile engineering. The latter went on because the limited capabilities putequalized tube and rocket artilleries on an equal footing without letting eitherany of them to fall behind or take the lead. Actually, missile artillery owes its existence entirely to smoke powder.

In 1884, the French chemist and powder researcher Paul Vieille developed a new type of powder, which he called smokeless pyroxylin. Pyroxylin (or colloid) is a nitrocellulose produced from wood. The power of this powder was three times that of the smoke generating counterpart. Even in the first experimental use of this compound, the shell speed was substantially increased. And firing as such became smokeless. Later on, Alfred Nobel developed a still more powerful nitroglycerin-based blasting powder.

The work in Russia lagged behind schedule. The first pilot batch of smokeless pyroxylin powder, 500 poods (1 pood = 36 lb) was turned out by the Okhtinsky powder factory in November 1890. The powder was intended for rounds of the newest weapon of the Russian Army, the 3-line rifle. The rifle and the unitary round using the smokeless powder revolutioniszed Russia's defencse engineering. However, the powder composition and manufacturing method were far from perfect.

Most of the complaints came from the Marine Office of the Navy. Its experts, eager to create highly efficient powders for ship-based large caliber guns, spotted the drawbacks of the gun powder supplied by the Okhtinsky factory and brought involved the outstanding scientist Dmitry Mendeleyev into the development of new recipes. Soon, Mendeleyev was sent to France and England, whereas a number of other researchers were sent to Germany to study gun powder production.

tale of russian missales

Dmitry Mendeleyev

Upon his return, Mendeleyev developed pyrocolloidal powder. It was superior to the Vielle powder, but much more complex to produce. The Chief Artillery Directorate decided against using Mendeleyev’slined the pyrocolloidal powder and started producing the more productiontechnology-friendly Vielle powder. In By 1892 output of pyroxylin powder was introduced in , the Kazan power factory and in- and by 1895 the factory in Shostka followed suit-based powder factories mastered the production of pyroxylin powder.

The backwardness of Russia's industry and the WWI prevented Russia from increasing the production of this type of powder. Whereas in the period from 1915 through 1917 Germany, France and England each produced eachbetween 218,000 and to 288,000 thousand tonnes of smokeless powder, Russia turned out a mere 32,000 thousand tonnes, an amount which was obviously insufficient amount for itsthe army.

The smokeless powder held much promise for its inventors.

The smoke powder consisted of fine grains of coal, saltpeter and sulphur. This was called a fine grain structure. The compound ignited instantly and each grain was burneding with along all its facets at once. The large combustion surfacearea of burning raised sharply the temperature and pressure sharply, which suited artillery engineers but created problems for missile manufacturers. Therefore, the fine-grained smoke powder was used in artillery that employed solid cast iron and steel barrels resisting high temperature and pressure.

Intended for missiles, Tthe smoke powder intended for missiles was compacted in order to formodify softening its inherent properties. Compacted under high pressure, the powder burned slowly, layer by layer, thereby which enablinged the missile to leave the guides smoothly and without "surprises" and damages either to its internal controls or the guides. Following thisOnly then did, the missile gradually picked up speed. However, the compacted powder did not burn completely, leaving unburned solid particles of soot after itself.

The smokeless powder had a different structure. Its components …



You are reading excerpts from a new series of books by Mikhail Pervov "Tales of Russian missiles"


On the night of 12-13 June 1944, Germany bombarded the South of England with a hitherto obscure weapon, the V-1 unmanned aircraft-type missile, or flying bomb. This was the brainchild of German designer Paul Schmidt. The design work started in 1930. The concept was based on bombarding the enemy's assets with unmanned aircraft-type missiles (flying bombs) fitted with relatively simple controls and a light, fuel-efficient and inexpensive pulse jet engine. Unlike the turbojet that needs an array of compressors and turbines with many blades whose manufacture was initially an extremely time-consuming job, the pulsating jet regulated air intake by its very design.

The possibility of using flying bombs in combat looked quite attractive. British radars detected rather accurately aircraft flying at a high altitude but did not always "see" low flying objects. Having a range of 280 km, the flying bombs could approach a target at high speed and a low altitude within 200 metres. It was believed that their use against enemy facilities protected by radar would be very effective.

There were also other advantages. Even with losses due to technical failures and the counter measures of the foe’s air defences, the massive use of flying bombs against such assets as major cities ought to have brought success. Unlike piloted aircraft, they would never veer or turn back whatever losses they sustained approaching the target. Needing no fuel to return to the home airfield, the flying bombs could be fitted with heavy, powerful ordnance.

The work proved more difficult than the German experts initially believed. The control instruments did not withstand the vibration overloads caused by the pulse jet. For five years the Argus experts tried to reduce the engine vibration whereas the Askania experts sought to develop vibration-proof control systems. Despite all their efforts, however, they failed to obtain adequate performance. Nonetheless, in 1943 Germany launched serial production with a monthly output of up to 900 missiles.

There are three versions of how the technical information and samples of the flying bombs themselves reached the USSR. According to one, fragments of a V-1 that had fallen during tests in the impassable Pinsk swamps in the interfluval area of the Vistula were found by Polish guerillas and handed over to the Red Army. According to the second version, some fragments were picked up by the British following a German bombardment of the south of the country, after which Prime Minister Churchill ordered that they be given to the Soviet Union. The third version has it that the technical documentation and finished missiles were found by the Soviet experts after liberation of a German proving ground in Poland. All three versions may be true.

On 13 July 1944, the Red Army started the Lvov-Sandomir operation aimed at liberating the Western Ukraine and South-Eastern Poland. Prime-Minister Churchill had been briefed that the Germans were testing new missiles on a proving ground in the vicinity of Debica near Blizna village. Learning about the advance of the Red Army, Churchill sent a telegram to Stalin requesting that during the liberation of Poland, special attention be directed at the missile proving ground and that British experts be given access to it after the liberation. Churchill pointed out that the German weapon that had been tested in that area posed a threat to London and Southern England.

The Germans built a spare proving ground in Poland in August 1943 because of Britain's bombardment of the main missile centre in Peenemunde. Unlike Peenemunde, the proving ground in Poland lay far from the Eastern frontline and was at that time beyond the reach of the Western allies

According to available information, Soviet experts received the first fragments of new German weaponry, among which were V-1 flying bombs, either in mid-June or mid-July 1944. On 19 July, the Russian Army Military Council approved "The preliminary instruction on how to counter flying bombs". Despite the success of the Red Army, use of the V-1 to bombard Moscow was not ruled out. Due to its insufficient firing range, the plan was to deliver flying bombs to the vicinity of Moscow with the help of towing aircraft. On 6 December, the Northern Front Air Defence Commander approved "The plan for repelling raids by towed flying bombs directed against Moscow." Their destruction by fighter aircraft, medium and small caliber anti-aircraft guns and barrage balloons was found to be most effective.

On 22 July, Stalin replied to Churchill, saying he would personally look into the latter's request. On 28 July, troops of the 1st Ukrainian Front commanded by Marshal Ivan Konev, crossed the Vistula river, forced out the German troops and accessed the so-called Sandomir bridgehead. On receipt of Stalin's order, Aleksey Shakhurin, the People's Commissar for the Aviation Industry, started forming a team of experts who were to fly to the liberated area. On 30 August, pressing an advance all across the front, the Red Army approached the proving ground. On that day, after making its last missile launch, the German test unit relocated to the rear in Germany.

On 13 June, right after a bombardment in the South of England, the State Defence Committee issued a resolution which entrusted the development of a V-1-based airframe was to the aircraft designer Nikolai Polikarpov. At the time, his design bureau was not fully occupied while Russia's other design bureaus were overloaded with orders from the front.

The chief and most sophisticated part of the V-1 was the pulse jet engine. In the USSR, engineer Vladimir Chelomey worked on such engines. On 16 June, at the aircraft engine production institute where he worked, a Department of Pulse Jet Engines was formed with some 100 personnel. It was headed by Chelomey. Along with scanty materiel, he got an order to speed up the work.

On 19 June, Polikarpov was taken to hospital with acute pain. He underwent surgery, but unfortunately the operation came late. Polikarpov was diagnosed with stomach cancer. With reference to this, his surgeon Sergey Yudin said:

"I've done everything I could, but it was too late."

The results of the operation were reported to Stalin's deputies Malenkov and Beria. The aircraft designer's fate did not bother them. At the front, there were very few Polikarpov aircraft. Success in battle was determined by the fighters of Yakovlev and Lavochkin. However, the creation of the V-1 equivalent was supervised personally by Stalin and hence the issue had to be resolved at any cost. Malenkov and Beria called in Chelomey and after talking with him came to the conclusion that this clever and energetic young man with a sense of purpose could cope with the job.

tale of russian missales

Vladimir Chelomey's 10-Kh flying bomb, a copy of Paul Schmidt's V-1 flying bomb

The results of the discussion were reported to Stalin who approved the choice of the man. On 30 July 1944, Polikarpov died. On 19 September, by order of the Commissar for Aviation Industry, Chelomey was appointed director and chief designer of the Polikarpov Plant. He received the material assets of the Plant's design bureau. The same order directed him to develop a V-1 equivalent, the 10-Kh air-borne cruise missile powered by a pulse jet engine. In addition, he got a proving ground near Dzhizak in Kazakhstan.

Neither designer Chelomey, nor Commissar Shakhurin knew about Schmidt's five-year ordeal with Argus and Askania. At first sight, the design of "a little plane with a pipe" looked simple enough. It was decided to quickly copy it and ship it to the front to fight the Germans. In September 1944, the Polish proving ground was completely occupied by the Red Army troops, so Shakhurin received permission to send there a special group of engineers. Appointed as its head was …



You are reading excerpts from a new series of books by Mikhail Pervov "Tales of Russian missiles"


In the late 1940s, the Soviet Army Chief Artillery Department urged the development of a tactical missile system with a firing range of up to 50 km. However, after the abortive attempt of designers Golitsin and Gerasimov to remake the powder-propelled Rheinbote missile and the Mazurov long-range shell, the generals in the Department stopped believing that a long-range, powder-propelled missile could be developed any time soon. So they turned to the designers of a liquid propellant missile though many doubted that such weapons could be safely used in the field.

In 1949, an assignment to develop the Korshun (Kite) liquid propellant rocket was allotted to Pavel Kostin, chief designer at the SKB NII-88 Research Institute. His counterpart at the NII-1 Research Institute, Nikolai Mazurov, would not give in, offering a new version of a powder-propelled missile which was given the name ‘Mars.’ The military agreed and approved both projects.

Three years later, Mazurov completed work on ‘Mars.’ His missile weighed 1550 kg and was fitted with a high explosive fragmentation warhead. In trials, it fired as far out as 50 km. However, its maximum range deviation was 2 km, which is why the customer refused to accept it for service. In 1952, the development of the first version of ‘Mars’ was stopped.

In August 1953, new nuclear charges successfully underwent trials at the Semipalatinsk proving ground. Sergey Korolyov decided to use one such charge for arming his R-5M strategic missile. Preliminary evaluations showed that the charge could also be used to arm a tactical missile. However, it would measure around 1 meter in diameter and have a warhead weighing over 1 ton. The missile diameter and weight would have to be more than trebled, i.e. a totally new product would have to be created. The inadequate firing accuracy was in this case offset by huge nuclear charge power. However, nobody could say if the required firing range was attainable.

Considering his mission impossible, Mazurov raised objections. However, USSR’s leaders insistently called for work on atomic bomb, atomic torpedo and atomic cannon projects. On 19 September 1953, a new decree ordered the development of powder-fuel missiles with nuclear warheads.

It was decided to fit a heavy 650 mm missile with a nuclear warhead that had just passed trials. The resulting product was called Filin. The Mars was categorized as a light missile and the decision was taken to fit it with a different warhead on which nuclear researchers were working for the 533 mm torpedoes. A still lighter missile was called Luna. It was supposed to be armed with a compact warhead developed for arming 400 mm atomic cannons. The Filin and Mars were going to be fitted with supercaliber warheads, whereas the Luna featured a single caliber.

The nuclear researchers assured the country's leaders that they would do the job on schedule. Mazurov was directed to prepare all the missiles for launch by July 1954. Having done his calculations, the designer came to the conclusion that the Filin could not be developed for the existing warhead. No a single self-propelled system would be able to carry the missile. Its new weight and size would make it untransportable. Also, it was unlikely that a powder-fuel engine with the required thrust could be created.

Mazurov's opinion was not ignored, but nuclear researchers fell behind schedule. A decree of the CPSU Central Committee and the Council of Ministers of 26 August 1954 commissioned Mazurov to develop the 3R1 Mars system with a supercaliber warhead as a top priority. This was to use a small-sized nuclear warhead developed by the designer Samvel Kocharyants.

tale of russian missales

Nikolai Mazurov's Mars tactical strike powder rocket (FROG-1)

Mazurov decided to join the 533mm warhead with the tested and proven engine of the Neptune 324mm missile. This reduced the design firing range to 20km. The customer objected, but the designer stood up for his brainchild. Defending the project, Mazurov declared he was creating the first atomic missile for tactical missions of the Ground Forces and its drawbacks would subsequently be eliminated. In accordance with the plans, the take-off weight grew to 1754 kg.

Mazurov received permission to start testing the new product before the decree was issued. The first launch took place on 21 August 1954. It was found that the warhead was destroyed after each launch. Designed for movement underwater, the rounded torpedo warhead did not withstand the stress of high speed flight. In order to increase its durability, Mazurov thickened the missile body, thereby increasing the diameter to 615 mm.



R-11 (SS-1b. Scud A) MISSILE

In February 1953, Mikhail Duplishchev was appointed chief designer of the SKB-385 Design Bureau in Zlatoust. Sergey Korolyov charged him with organising serial production of a new R-11 tactical strike missile. Duplishchev's work was an ignominious failure and he was transferred to Mikhail Yangel's Design Bureau in Dnepropetrovsk.

Korolyobv was advised to appoint Victor Makeyev as director of the SKB Bureau in Zlatoust. Mindful of the latter's propensity to frequent banquets, Korolyov decided to confirm the disciplined and even-tempered designer Yevgeny Sinilshchikov's appointment as director, making Makeyev, a bright and active organiser, his deputy.

tale of russian missales

Launching Sergey Korolyov's R-11 tactical strike liquid propellant missile (SS-1b, Scud A)

Upon hearing of the preliminary decision, Sinilshchikov got scared. "Where to? Zlatoust? The Urals? My God! Can a man live there?" Having taken counsel with his wife, he declared he wouldn't go anywhere from Moscow. Having lost interest in Sinilshchikov, Korolyov gave him up as hopeless. Realising that his career at Korolyov's Bureau was finished, in December 1953 Sinilshchikov joined the Engine Design Bureau headed by Sevruk.

In the meantime, Korolyov's work on the R-11 missile reached the stage of acceptance trials. It became clear that the missile turned out well. The trials were soon over and a Decree of 16 August 1954 directed the SKB-385 Design Bureau of Zlatoust to begin production of missiles and their engines.

Korolyov proposed the designer Yevgeny Charnko to head the Zlatoust Bureau. During the war, Charnko had worked on anti-aircraft artillery guns. In 1949, his Artillery Design Bureau was included in the Research Institute NII-88, where it continued its work. The missile institute needed Charnko and his people like a hole in the head. However, the security agencies insisted on his presence.

Charnko's team of artillery experts provided the so-called cover story of the NII-88 Missile Research Institute. Its cannons stood unconcealed on the territory of the Institute, where everyone could see them. They slowly moved from one workshop to another, ending up at a railroad station, where every effort was made to prolong the loading onto platforms. Finally, they started an unhurried travel to all parts of the USSR. It was believed that the enemy's bewildered spies would invariably supply their centres with false information about the work of the Kaliningrad Artillery Plant, not suspecting that the Plant has long been replaced by the NII-88 Missile Research Institute involved with military rocket engineering.

Having decided to create a Navy missile on the basis of the R-11 land attack counterpart, in January 1955 Korolyov urged issuance by the CPSU Central Committee and the Council of Ministers of a decree "On investigation of ballistic missile launches from submarines." This kick-started work on the R-11FM missile, an equivalent of the R-11.

The orders for Charnko’s anti-aircraft guns plummeted. So he turned to Korolyov with a request to somehow assign work to his design bureau. Korolyov proposed to dump the cannons like trash. "What do you want with this junk?" he asked as they met. "Better take up underwater launch systems. This is a promising and interesting job."

Charnko agreed and energetically took up the challenging assignment. His design bureau was renamed the OKB-10 Experimental Design Bureau. The work proved to be really interesting. Nobody in the country had worked on ballistic missiles launched from submarines. Soon, Korolyov called in the designer and proposed that he move to Zlatoust. Like Sinilshchikov, Charnko dreaded leaving Moscow. Enraged, Korolyov summoned Makeyev and declared:

"Pack up your things, Victor! You are going to Zlatoust!"

"Tomorrow, if you please," answered Makeyev.

On 11 March 1955, at the age of 30, Victor Makeyev was appointed chief designer of the SKB-385 Design Bureau and moved to Zlatoust. Yemelyan Ushakov, the former director of facility No.66, became head of the design bureau. According to an approved plan, by January 1958 the facility was to complete the second stage of construction and reach an output capacity of 2000 R-11 missiles per year (actually, in 1958, 88 missiles had been manufactured).

Makeyev was recruited successfully, but the staffing as such stalled. Like Sinilshchikov and Charnko, most of Korolyov's people lived in Moscow and in Kaliningrad near Moscow and none of them would change their place of residence for the boondocks in the Urals, not even under the threat of death. Korolyov turned to the Party committee chairman for help. According to the unwritten law of the time, all executives of defence companies at all levels were supposed to be members of the Communist Party and to absolutely obey all of the Party's orders. Having summoned those who refused to obey, the secretary proposed they should part with their party membership cards. Stripping someone of Party membership was an extreme measure followed by firing from a defence company and, often, made it impossible to find any job thereafter, except perhaps at a liquor distillery. Thus, all the recalcitrants ultimately changed their minds and agreed to go to Zlatoust.

This is how an old town in the Urals came by a team of young and boisterous workers. Their mean age was 25. They worked enthusiastically, and nobody left the factory before 10 P.M. On the one hand, the abundance of new topics was fascinating. On the other hand, in the evening there was nothing to do in Zlatoust. TV sets had not yet arrived. Entertainment was virtually absent. Only once or twice a week new movies were delivered and shown at a recreation center on Stalin Street.

The first 35 missiles were assembled for trials at the NII-88 Institute's Experimental Facility in Kaliningrad. In 1955, the plant in Zlatoust received an order to manufacture 70 missiles. The plant management was terrified when they read the assignment. The plant was absolutely unprepared for work. In the third quarter, making a desperate effort, the plant did produce … one missile from components and subsystems manufactured at NII-88. But it was not made available to the customer because of substandard quality.

In October, Dmitry Ustinov came to the plant to take everyone to task. He assembled a conference and listened to reports of the SKB head Ushakov and workshop managers. He removed two managers from their posts then and there. To Ushakov he noted grimly:

"I let you carry on because there is no one to replace you. But it's temporary. Understand?"

The debate dragged on well into the night. All were tired. Suddenly, an engine designer, Isayev, rose from his place, went to the middle of the room and, to everyone's surprise lay down on the floor. The amazed Ustonov asked:

"What's the matter with you, Aleksey Mikhailovich?"

Isayev answered: "That's all. I can't stand it any more. I want to sleep."

Consulting his watch, Ustinov found it was already 3 A.M. and said quietly:

"Yes, comrades. We've been at it a little too long. Go home and get a really good sleep. Be sure to come at six in the morning. We'll start inspecting the ovens".

Staggering from tiredness, the facility directors thanked Isayev, the favourite of Ustinov, and dismally went their ways, each wondering how one could reach home, "get a really good sleep", and come back to work in just three hours…




In late 1958, the OKB-2 design bureau of Pyotr Grushin was awarded the Order of Lenin for its contribution to the creation of the SA-75 Dvina air defence missile system. The country's leader, Nikita Khrushchev, himself wished to hand over the high award. However, time went by, and Khrushchev did not come. Several times Grushin telephoned to the head of state's aides, and each time got the same answer "Wait!"

tale of russian missales

Launching Pyotr Grushin's V-750VN missile (SA-2V, Guideline)

On one December morning, a telephone in Grushin's office which linked him directly with the Kremlin rang. Picking up the receiver, he instantly recognised Khrushchev's loud voice:

"Grushin! My foreign ambassador got lost today, I don't know where. I've got time to spare. At twelve I'll be over at your place. Do you object?"

Of course, there could be no objections, although he had very little time to prepare for a meeting with a high-ranking guest. But preparations got underway and were completed on the dot and up to scratch.

Khrushchev arrived together with Brezhnev, Podgorny and other big brass of the state. Brezhnev followed Khrushchev like glue, laughed heartily when Khrushchev just began to crack a joke and nodded his approval whenever Khrushchev made as if to say something.

Khrushchev mounted an improvised platform, delivered an impassioned speech and handed out awards to the best of the best. After the meeting, a banquet was held in the dining hall. Noisily entering the hall, Khrushchev started proposing toasts, one after another, while an elderly man behind his back kept refilling his sizable blue glass from a separate bottle.

The young OKB workers sitting nearby at the same table began to argue over what was in the bottle - vodka, cognac or wine. Suddenly, as the banquet was in high gear, a factory manager, Tarasenko, who has had a drop too much, declared that he wanted to test the contents of the head of state's bottle. All froze up at once. Much to the surprise of those present, after Tarasenko's words a man came up to the merry company and poured cognac for everyone from that bottle. Years later they recalled what a fine cognac it was.

As the banquet was drawing to a close, everyone was in high spirits. Grushin broke into song: "We all come of simple people." When he was through with the first verse, he realized with terror that he had forgotten the second. But nothing terrible happened. Khrushchev came to his rescue. In a loud voice and with inspiration, he finished the song, walked off to his limo, got inside and left.

You have been reading excerpts from a series of new books by Mikhail Pervov, "Tales of Russian Missiles".