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RSD-10 Pioner

NATO: SS-20 Saber


RSD-10 Pioner

Forward view of RSD-10 Pioner launch vehicle.
Source: George Chernilevsky - © GNU Attribution - Share Alike license

Soviet Union
Intermediate-range ballistic missile
Entered service
1976 for Pioner
1980 for Pioner-UTTH
Out of service
1968 - 1975
Soviet Union - MITT
Alexander Nadiradze
1976 - 1980's
Soviet Union - VPMZ (missile)
Soviet Union - MAZ (launch vehicle)
Number produced
654 missiles
499 launch vehicles
SS-20 Saber (NATO reporting name)
RSD-10 (INF treaty designation)
RT-21M (alternative Soviet designation)
15Zh45 (industrial designation)
15Zh53 (industrial designation)
Notable users
Soviet Union



The RSD-10 Pioner is a Cold War era intermediate range ballistic missile system with nuclear warheads of Soviet origin. In the West it is known by the NATO reporting name SS-20 Saber and it is also known as the RT-21M. The name RSD-10 Pioner stands for Raketa Sredney Dalnosti "Pioner", which is Russian for Medium-Range Missile "Pioneer". The RSD-10 was developed concurrently with the longer range RT-21 Temp-2S (SS-16) and shared a similar first and second stage. The RSD-10 was notable for two reasons. First, it was the first Soviet solid fuel nuclear missile, thus providing a true road mobile fast reaction system. Second, it was a move away from the strategy of mutually assured destruction towards smaller yield pinpoint strikes.


The RSD-10 is a two stage missile using solid fuel and inertial guidance. The payload is either a single high yield nuclear warhead or three lower yield MIRVs. The major tactical advantage of the RSD-10 is the highly mobile six axle all terrain MAZ-547A launch vehicle. The launch vehicle fulfills the roles of transporter, erector and launcher. Four large jacks are used in the launch position. The survivability of the RSD-10 system is rather good due to its mobility and limited launch time.


The RSD-10 has a range of 5.500 km and CEP of about 550 meters. Originally the RSD-10 was fitted with a single 1 MT warhead. At the same time a version with triple MIRV warhead with 5 to 50 kT yield each was developed and became the most common model. There is no version with conventional warhead.


The USSR was the sole user of the RSD-10. In was in use from 1976 to 1988. All missiles and launch vehicles had been destroyed by 1991. Some remain in museums. The RSD-10 has no direct replacement, but it can be argued that the role of the RSD-10 has been taken over by the much longer range RT-2PM Topol (NATO: SS-25) system that is employed since 1988.

System composition

Transporter erector launcher

The RSD-10 Pioner is a road mobile intermediate-range ballistic missile system. The launch vehicle is based on the MAZ-547A six axle chassis. The launch vehicle is capable of launching all three types of RSD-10 missiles that have been developed. The launch vehicle was considered a single use system.

Intermediate-range ballistic missile

The launch vehicle holds a single solid fuel two stage missile. The original missile had a single warhead and was called 15Zh45. The 15Zh53 missile has three warheads.

15V75 communications vehicle

The 15V75 tropospheric communication vehicle provides long range communication. This vehicle is based on MAZ-543A chassis. Reportedly this system is also known as MS-2.

15T118 command post

The 15T118 is a road mobile command post vehicle. This is based on the MAZ-543A 8x8 wheeled chassis.


RSD-10 Pioner

Rear view of RSD-10 launch vehicle on jacks.
Source: George Chernilevsky - © GNU Attribution - Share Alike license

List of RSD-10 Pioner variants

RSD-10 Pioner
Original single warhead model introduced in 1976. Updated series production model Pioner-K was introduced in 1977. Fitted with a single 1 MT warhead. Industrial designation is 15Zh45. NATO reporting name is SS-20 Mod 1.
RSD-10 Pioner-UTTH
MIRV version of the original RSD-10. Introduced in 1980 and served alongside original model. Industrial designation 15Zh53. Uses similar first and second stage but uses warhead with three 5 to 50 kT yield MIRV's. NATO reporting name is SS-20 Mod 2.
RSD-10 Pioner-3
Further improved version of Pioner-UTTH. Tested from 1985 to 1988. Twelve systems produced, but stopped due to INF treaty. Has improved range and accuracy. Fitted with three MIRVs from the Topol of 150 kT each. Or fitted with a single smaller MIRV for 7.400 km range. NATO reporting name is SS-20 Mod 3. A new designation of SS-28 was also contemplated.


Facts SS-20 Mod 1 SS-20 Mod 2 SS-20 Mod 3
Soviet Union
Intermediate-range ballistic missile
16.49 m
1.79 m
37.1 t
Inertial navigation
Single nuclear warhead
1.6 t
1 MT
Engagement envelope
Two stage solid propellant rocket motor
600 to 5.500 km
550 m CEP
Launch canister
2.14 m
19.32 m