Development of the first missile generation was the most difficult and important task. The young design bureau created world’s unparalleled missile designs. It was the breakthrough in the missile technology, which made the Soviet Union competitive under the mounting threat of the Cold War.
In 1953, the Main Research Institute (NII-88) sent research materials concerning a “high-boiling” missile to Vasiliy Budnik, Chief Designer of the design department at Dnepropetrovsk Factory #586. According to NII-88’s estimates, the missile carrying a warhead with a trotyl-based explosive could have a firing range similar to that of the R-5 missile. These research materials were used for development of the original draft design of the R-12 missile prototype.
In 1954, Special Design Bureau (SDB-586, or OKB-586) was established based on the design department of Factory #586 to implement the design project. Mikhail Yangel was appointed OKB-586’s Chief Designer. It was Yangel who was at the head of further development of the R-12 missile.
All the Design Bureau departments, Factory, and research institutes worked intensively on the R-12 development. On June 22, 1957, the first missile was successfully launched under the flight-development test program.
The success of the first OKB-586’s development, the R-12 missile, lent support to the validity of the selected field of work.
The Design Bureau started the development of the R-14 missile with the range twice as much as that of the R-12. The missile featured a new propellant, unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine, or UDMH. An important quality of the new propellant pair was spontaneous ignition, or hyperbolicity, of the propellant components. The R-14 missile was the first to use a gyrostabilized platform in the autonomous inertial control system, which allowed reducing instrumental errors and increased firing accuracy. In June 1960, the first R-14 missile was launched under the flight-development test program.
In August 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched the first intercontinental ballistic missile. It was the R-7 ICBM designed by Korolev’s OKB-1 and burning kerosene and liquid oxygen. This launch did not diminish interest in the work done by OKB-586, tasked with the design of an ICBM operating on storable high-boiling-point propellants: the R-16.
The missile was designed in record-breaking time. On October 24, 1960, the preparation for the first launch of the R-16 missile under the flight-development test program ended in catastrophe: a defect in the control system cable network resulted in a premature start-up of the second stage sustainer engine, leading to the missile destruction on the launch pad.
All possible defect-eliminating actions were taken. In February 1961, the first successful launch of the R-16 missile was conducted. Later this ICBM, like all first-generation missiles, was put in service.
The work on the first-generation missiles proved that the course to develop missiles operating on high-boiling components was right. The Soviet Army added three missile complexes to its inventory.