Background of the R-12 Missiles of Novi Belokorovichi
The 163d Missile Regiment of the RVSN (Russian Strategic Rocket Forces) was activated in June 1959 at Belokorovichi, Zhitomir Oblast, Ukraine. In 1961 it became part of the 50th Missile Division, and was renamed the 163d Missile Regiment in January 1961. It consisted of two battalions each with four R-12 (SS-4) pads and one battalion with four R-12's in silos.
The R-12s were on alert until 1984, when they were stood down and replaced with the much more capable RSD-10K (SS-20) missile.
The R-12 was a very early Soviet ballistic missile, the first ballistic missile after the World War II German V-2 to go into series production.
It was about 75 feet long and had a payload of about 1500 lb – a one megaton thermonuclear warhead in most cases, although high explosive and chemical warheads could be utilized. In roughly the same class as the US Jupiter IRBM, it was superior in the sense that it used semi- storable propellants, which allowed a somewhat better readiness period than early US missiles, which required elaborate launch preparations and fueling with liquid oxygen. With a range of about 900-1200 miles, the R-12 was considered an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), and when based in the western USSR, was capable of reaching targets in Germany, Italy, and France, but not the UK or US.
The R-12 (called the SS-4 “Sandal” by the NATO) probably achieved its greatest fame when another Ukrainian regiment was deployed to Cuba in the fall of 1962 under Operation Anadyr, precipitating the Cuban Missile Crisis. When based in Cuba, the R-12 was capable of reaching targets in the southeastern and south-central US.
The R-12 was usually used in a mobile mode in which the missiles would be moved to pre-surveyed surface launch sites on trailers, fueled, raised into position and fired. These early generation missiles lacked flexibility in terms of guidance, and their launch sites were clearly aligned with their prospective target areas. In the case of the R-12s based at San Cristobal, Cuba, the intended target was apparently Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth. The Belokorovichi missiles, with a launch azimuth of about 220 degrees, were clearly aligned on the US Jupiter MRBM bases in the Gioia del Colle region of southern Italy.
(The Italy-based missiles were approved in 1959 and had gone into operation in the late spring and early summer of 1961, just after service entry of the Ukrainian R-12s, which were rushed into service to counter the threat posed by the US weapons.)
While the precise locations of the R-12 pads are known, the location of the silos for the Belokorovichi R-12s are unclear, but they were probably located close to the missile storage/preparation areas, and were not completed until 1964.
The UFO Claims
According to information posted at
claimants state that on 4 October 1982, silo-based R-12s of the 50th Missile Division at Belokorovichi were apparently affected by the presence of a very large UFO (variously described as being the size of a “five-story house” or “900 meters in diameter”.
Claimants state that for a period of 15 seconds, control panel displays seemed to indicate that the missiles had somehow entered launch readiness mode.
Some of the statements related to this incident are questionable, such as the claim at
that “The missile silo at the base contained a nuclear warhead pointed at the United States.” Since the incident took place prior to installation of more advanced missiles than the medium-range R-12s at Belokorovichi, the missiles in question could not have been aimed at the United States itself.Since news of the 1982 incident did not reach western sources until the mid-1990s, shortly after the fall of the USSR, corroboration of details remains elusive. But whatever caused the faulty launch readiness indications, in no case could these missiles have accidentally struck the US.