U.S. House National Security Committee members Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas and Rep. Vic Snyder of Arizona recently returned from a five-day mission to Ukraine and Russia where they got a first hand look at former Soviet missiles and launchers. The missiles and launchers are being dismantled as part of the U.S. Department of Defense's Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.
During the mission, Thornberry and Snyder, along with DoD officials, participated in the partial elimination of an SS-19 missile launcher at Pervomaysk, an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) base in Ukraine. Others attending included the US Ambassador to Ukraine William Miller, and Col-Gen Volodymyr Mikhtyuk, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense and Commander of the 43rd Rocket Army. The mission took place the week of October 13. To date, the CTR program has eliminated 66 SS-19 silos and 58 SS-19 missiles in Ukraine; each of these missiles carried six nuclear warheads. The delegation also viewed an SS-24 in its silo, with its 10 warheads removed, and toured an SS-24 command center.
The SS-19 silo elimination process in Ukraine is managed by Bechtel International Corporation, and the SS-19 missile elimination process by Morrison Knudsen. All 132 SS-19 silos in Ukraine will be eliminated by the end of 1998, and the CTR program has begun preliminary work to eliminate all Ukrainian SS-24 missiles and launchers. Ukraine became nuclear-weapons-free on May 30, 1996 when the last nuclear warhead was returned to Russia for elimination.
In Russia on October 18, the delegation toured the Research Institute of Chemical and Machine Building near Sergeiv Posad where SS-N-8 submarine-launched ballistic missiles are eliminated. They viewed cutting and compacting equipment provided by the CTR program, as well as missile assemblies in the process of dismantlement. These missiles carried up to three nuclear warheads. At a military base near Sergeiv Posad, the delegation saw supercontainers, protective coverings provided by CTR to assist the Russian Ministry of Defense in the safe and secure transport of nuclear weapons. The MOD also conducted a tour of the future site of a test and training facility to identify the best equipment and operational techniques for security upgrades to nuclear weapons storage bases. These activities are part of CTR's comprehensive Weapons Protection, Control and Accounting project to ensure the safe and secure transportation and storage of Russian nuclear weapons.