Military Secrets
Russia's 'Nuke Trains' Will Be Roving The Rails By 2018
Rail wars? Russia ponders new railroad-based missile systems
Published time: 22 Oct, 2012 09:34

Russia plans to introduce railway-based missile systems.(Photo from

Plans are underway to create combat railway-based missile systems designed to give Russia a more flexible means of defense.

The system consists of a train with two or three diesel locomotives and specialized railcars, which look like refrigerator or passenger railcars, but carry intercontinental ballistic missiles, together with command posts, Col. Vadim Koval, the Russian Defense Ministry's spokesman for the Strategic Rocket Forces (RVSN)the Russian Defense Ministry, told reporters.

Although the last railway-based missile unit was decommissioned almost a decade ago, the system is getting a second look as a means of protecting Russia’s vast landmass as global threats become more diversified.

"A final decision, however, has not been taken on the issue," Koval added.

The idea of using railroads to move around missiles is not new. Koval noted that the first unit of railway-based missile systems was put on combat duty in Kostroma in October 1987, and removed from service in 2005.

However, with the nature of warfare changing and the global situation increasingly volatile and unpredictable, military leaders argue it may be a good time to give some versatility to Russia’s missile defenses.

Meanwhile, Russia is looking for ways to counter the US missile defense system, which is being deployed in Eastern Europe. Despite Moscow’s warning that the technology has the potential to spark a new arms race, US and NATO officials remain adamant and refuse to cooperate with Russia. Washington has even rejected Moscow’s request to provide it with legal assurances that the system will never be activated against Russian territory.

Railway-based missile systems are designed for use along special military patrol routes, as well as railway lines used by the public.

Formerly, three missile divisions – near Kostroma, Krasnoyarsk and Perm – were deployed. Employing 12 trains, the system transported 36 missiles, each with 10 nuclear warheads.

Russian military experts say that with technological advances made in missile technology, the use of railroad-based systems could be an effective means of protecting Russia.

SOURCE: Robert Bridge, RT News

Russia will use nukes in case of a strike – official
Published time: 11 Dec, 2013 13:03

The RT-2PM Topol ballistic missile (RIA Novosti/Alexandr Kryazhev) / RIA Novosti

Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has warned that Russia will use nuclear weapons if it comes under an attack, adding that this possibility serves as the main deterrent to potential provocateurs and aggressors.

“One can experiment as long as one wishes by deploying non-nuclear warheads on strategic missile carriers. But one should keep in mind that if there is an attack against us, we will certainly resort to using nuclear weapons in certain situations to defend our territory and state interests,” Rogozin, the defense industry chief said on Wednesday speaking at the State Duma, the lower house.

He pointed out that this principle is enshrined in Russia’s military doctrine. Any aggressor or group of aggressors should be aware of that, he said.

“We have never diminished the importance of nuclear weapons – the weapon of requital – as the great balancer of chances,” Rogozin said.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin (RIA Novosti/Vladimir Fedorenko)

Russia to develop response to US Prompt Global Strike
Russia’s Fund of Perspective Researches (FPI) will develop a military response to the American Conventional Prompt Global Strike (PGS) strategy, Dmitry Rogozin told the State Duma.

So far, the FPI has already looked at over a thousand proposed ideas and plans to work on 60 projects, eight of which are top priority, the politician said. He refused to disclose any details, but said that one of those projects is focused on preparing a response to the PGS, which is the “main strategy” that the Pentagon is nurturing.

PGS would allow the United States to strike targets anywhere on the planet, with conventional weapons in as little as an hour.

As Rogozin explained earlier, the strategy would give America an advantage over a nuclear state, thanks to their better technical capabilities with weaponry, including the speed, RIA Novosti cited.


'Nuclear train' returns: Russia to deploy rail-based missiles to counter US 'Prompt Global Strike' Published time: 18 Dec, 2013 15:31

Image from

Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces are preparing to revive railroad-based missiles and counter the US’s Conventional Prompt Global Strike concept. A blueprint of the modernized “nuclear train” will be presented in the first half of 2014.

“A Defense Ministry report has been submitted to the president and the order has been given to develop a preliminary design of a rail-mounted missile system,” the commander of the Strategic Missile Force, Lt. Gen. Sergey Karakayev, said Wednesday, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

General Karakayev compared a potential power of a “nuclear train” with several missiles to a division of stationery silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“Our missile officers are frustrated that we don’t possess such a system today,” Karakayev said Wednesday. “When the Supreme Commander-in-Chief [President Vladimir Putin] asked me about it, I expressed full support in the railroad-based missile systems.”

Russia used to possess ICBM Molodets railroad-based missile system (NATO designation: SS-24 Scalpel) disguised as an ordinary freight train, inherited from the Soviet Union. With Russia’s extremely vast railroad system, detection and preemptive destruction of that system was extremely difficult.

“We see the future missile as solid-fueled, with multiple warheads – with RT-24 Yars as a prototype. We are talking of modifying missiles that are to weigh 47 tons. To compare, a missile in the old nuclear train weighed 110 tons,” Karakayev said.

Within the framework of the START-II nuclear arms reduction treaty with the US, signed by President Boris Yeltsin and his US counterpart, George H. W. Bush in 1993, the SS-24 Scalpel system was decommissioned and all launching platforms were destroyed by 2007.

The ‘New START’ treaty signed by presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama in 2011 does not limit the use of railway-based systems, so in 2012 Russia reconsidered development of a new version of a railway-based strategic missile system.

One year later, Russia’s Defense Ministry announced the new railroad missile system would be developed by the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology – the same institute that developed the sea-based Bulava nuclear missile for the latest generation of Borey-class submarine strategic nuclear missile carriers.

The Institute is expected to present a blueprint of the system within the next six months.

The project is aimed at countering the threat posed by the US Conventional Prompt Global Strike concept. This concept implies destroying stationary targets with hypersonic missiles armed with conventional warheads in any part of the planet within an hour of receiving an order.

A constantly moving “nuclear train” is viewed as a hard target for that still-being-developed system.

Last week, Russia’s Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the Russian military and defense industry, called America’s Conventional Prompt Global Strike concept “the most important new strategy being developed by the United States today.” Rogozin warned that in case Russia becomes a target of such a strike, “in certain circumstances we will of course respond with nuclear weapons.”

Recently, Rogozin also announced that Russia was developing strike hypersonic missiles itself.

‘Nuke trains’ with up to 30 Yars missiles rolling out from 2018 – Russian defense source
Published time: 26 Dec, 2014 11:20

A BZhRK with a Molodets missile erected to launch position. Photo from wikipedia

A Russian military source outlined the capabilities of Barguzin strategic missile train. The country may roll out five such disguised mobile launch platforms each carrying six RS-24 Yars missiles in five years.

A ‘nuclear train’ – properly called BZhRK, short for ‘combat railway missile complex’ in Russian – is a mobile platform for transporting and launching strategic nuclear missiles. Similarly to nuclear submarines, such trains are hard to wipe out in a preemptive strike because of their mobility and ability to be disguised as regular freight trains.

The Soviet Union had 12 such nuclear trains, each carrying three RT-23 Molodets (SS-24 Scalpel in NATO disambiguation) missiles, but they were released from combat duty after Russia and the US signed the START-2 treaty in 1993 and eventually decommissioned.

Last year the Russian military said that nuclear trains – which are no longer banned under the New START treaty – would be revived.

The move is meant to counter the US’s Conventional Prompt Global Strike project, which would allow Pentagon to deliver precision strikes with conventional weapons at any target in the world in one hour.

Last week the head of Russia's Strategic Missile Force, Lieutenant General Sergey Karakayev, revealed that the future missile platform would be called Barguzin after the strong eastern wind that blows over Lake Baikal.

Now a source in the Russian military, which preferred to remain anonymous, has revealed some details of the weapon to Russian news agencies.

Like its predecessor, Barguzin’s carriages carrying missiles would be disguised as refrigerator cars. But since a Yars missile weights roughly half of what a Molodets missile did, the cars would not need reinforced wheel-sets to carry the load. This would make the trains harder to identify from the ground.

The weight difference also means that a single nuclear train would be able to carry more individual missiles. According to designs of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Technology, the weapon platform’s developer, each Barguzin would be able to tow up to six Yars missiles, the source said.

The destructive potential of the new platform would probably be smaller than that of its predecessor however. Molodets missiles had 10 MIRVed warheads with a total yield of 5.5 megatons. Yars reportedly has four warheads with a total yield of between 0.4 and 1.2 megatons. The more advanced Yars, however, is more accurate and has greater range.

Organizationally, each train with its personnel would constitute a single regiment of the Strategic Missile Force (RVSN).

“The BZhRKs Barguzin will be delivered to one of the RVSN divisions organized into five regiments,” the source said. “The timeline for finishing the development is 2018.”

The first Barguzin is likely to go into service in 2019, the source said. The Russian military expects the nuclear trains to remain in service until at least 2040.

By the late 1970s satellite surveillance had improved targeting and strategic missiles had become more accurate. This made missile silos vulnerable and mobile launchers [sea, road and rail] more attractive. Both the USA and the USSR began developing rail based launch systems.

USSR RT-23 system

Missile train in St Petersburg museum

In 1987 the USSR deployed rail mounted launchers for the RT-23 missile [NATO name SS-24 Scalpel]. This solid fuel missile carried ten MIRV 550 kt warheads and had a range of 6,000 miles. The missile had a circular error of probability of 150-250 metres.

A missile launch train was composed of three locomotives, a generating power car, a command car, a support car, and three missile launch vehicles. The trains were difficult to distinguish from ordinary rail traffic. The trains were based in sidings in Bershet, Kostroma, and Krasnoyarsk and dispersed when things got tense.

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 20.00.22

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 20.01.33The trains could cover up to 600 miles per day and be dispersed over more than 50,000 miles of track.  It is clear that the trains, if given the chance to disperse from their bases, would have been very hard to find. It is also clear that if only one of the twelve trains was able to fire its missiles the resulting 30 half megaton bursts could have seriously damaged an enemy.

After 2000 the 36 rail-based missiles were also gradually withdrawn from service, with the last 15 decommissioned in August 2005. One train remains in a museum [see above].

SOURCE: Atomic Train
Russia's Fast And Elusive TOPOL-M Ballistic Missile Is Scary As Hell
By Tyler Rogoway

The giant TOPOL-M road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile is one frightening creation of mankind. It can hide in cities, forests, or even nuclear-attack hardened bunkers. It'll travel at over 15,000 MPH while taking evasive action and pumping out decoys on the way to its target.

TOPOL-M, known by NATO as the 'Sickle-B,' was the first ICBM created by Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Topol in Russian is the name for the White Poplar tree, which is very similar to the Aspen tree in North America.

First fielded in 1997 as an upgrade of the first generation TOPOL, this new system was originally designed in the 1980s, and then redesigned in the mid-1990s, with America's push for a ballistic missile defense shield in mind. Since its introduction, there have been about 80 TOPOL-Ms put into service, with close to a third of those being road-mobile versions and the rest being placed in highly fortified concrete silos. Another 170 older generation road-mobile TOPOL missiles remain in service to bolster the more modern TOPOL-M road-mobile fleet.


The TOPOL-M missile was designed to penetrate an American anti-ballistic missile shield by leveraging high-speed, a relatively small infrared signature during its boost phase, advanced decoys (as many as ten carried on a single missile), maneuvering mid-course capability, and maneuvering independently targeted reentry vehicles, of which it can carry up to six, although they are said to carry just one operationally.

The missile's high speed shortens the time anyone can react to it, and every second matters when it comes to ballistic missile defense. The rocket motors were designed for a short, very powerful boost stage so that American space-based infrared detection satellites (SBIRS, DSP) have less time to detect and track it. Its decoys make it hard for radar to adequately track the correct target, and its countermeasures are said to have been upgraded to fool infrared tracking systems, which are use for mid-course interception. The missile and reentry vehicles' ability to dynamically maneuver outside of their ballistic track makes producing an effective kill solution, or even predicting the TOPOL-M's target, problematic. All these features come together to make a missile that is probably outside of America's missile defense capabilities today, and the sheer number of them that exists makes the idea of defending against anything but a limited barrage totally invalid.

Uploaded on Dec 26, 2011
The Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) was a planned U.S. missile defense program whose goal was to design, develop, and deploy kinetic energy-based, mobile, ground and sea-launched missiles that could intercept and destroy enemy ballistic missiles during their boost, ascent and midcourse phases of flight. The KEI consisted of the Interceptor Component (kinetic projectile), the Mobile Launcher Component, and the Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) component.

On May 7, 2009, KEI program was canceled due primarily to financial reasons.

The missile itself is close to seventy feet long, made mainly out of carbon fiber and weighs just over 100,000lbs at launch. It can reach out to about 6,500 miles. Its three stages are solid fueled, so it can be ready to launch at a moments notice, and can remain ready to fire for long periods of time.

The TOPOL-M is so powerful that it can also be used to put up to medium-sized satellites into low-earth orbit as its payload for ICBM operations can be as heavy as 2650lbs, although it usually carriers a single 800 kiloton thermonuclear warhead. It is guided by an on-board inertial navigation system that is coupled with a GLONASS (Russian GPS) interface, giving the giant rocket a circular error probability (CEP) of around 600 feet, which is more than accurate enough for an ICBM.

Not only is the road-mobile TOPOL-M hard to hit once it is in the air, or at the edge of space for that matter, it is also very hard to find on the ground as they can hide pretty much anywhere. Its transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) is built in Belarus by heavy military vehicle makers MZKT, features sixteen wheels, and the front and rear pair of axles have independent steering, which is absolutely necessary for navigating the massive TEL on roads that were never built for something its size.

The MZKT-79221 is actually fairly capable off-road, and during a time of deployed operations that is where these vehicles end up, basically where you would not expect them to be. Forging streams, rumbling down muddy alpine tails and traversing dense snow are all within the TOPOL-M TEL's operating abilities. The missile and the TEL are also accompanied by a command and support vehicle, and in some cases a similar long-range communications vehicle for over the horizon connectivity.

Whereas America has its nuclear 'trident' consisting of silo-based, submarine-based and air-launched nuclear weapons, Russia has a four pronged approach with its road-mobile ICBMs that operate in a similar fashion to SSBN submarines. By dispersing a portion of its land-based nuclear arsenal throughout its great wilderness, Russia makes it very hard for the US to hit all of its nuclear emplacements during a 'first strike' scenario. This greatly enhances Russia's land-based nuclear arsenal's deterrence factor. Just the threat of a second-strike ability, not just from Russia's SSBN submarine force that America works very hard to track, but from road-mobile ICBMs, and very capable ones at that, makes Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) a continuing reality.

The TOPOL-M is now out of production, and in its place is an improved missile that carries 'at least' four MIRVs. This new system is known as the RS-24 'Yars' and features an even higher speed than the TOPOL-M, and has a smaller CEP of only about 150 feet. More advanced decoys and countermeasures are also said to be fielded with this new missile, as well as enhanced mid-course and terminal phase maneuvering, all of which were developed specifically to counter anti-ballistic missile defense systems that have become operational in the US and that will soon be operational in Europe.

Russia is also working on deploying the RS-24 on trains as well as road-mobile TELs, something it stopped doing under the START II treaty by the end of the last decade. The new START III treaty, signed in 2011, does not limit train-based ICBMs, thus Russia is quickly developing such a system.

So sleep tight knowing there are hundreds of TOPOLs, TOPOL-Ms, and now RS-24s, prowling the Russian countryside, and soon to be clacking along Russia's never-ending railways as well, just waiting for the order to end the world as we know it.

Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who edits the website Foxtrot Alpha for You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address

SOURCE: Tyler Rogoway
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