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Nuclear-Armed Trains Roaming Russia

Russia continues to modernize its nuclear arsenal. One of the most interesting plans regards the reintroduction of nuclear missile systems deployed on trains

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During the Cold War years, a huge rail network was built as a nuclear detterent and is still present in Russia today. Thanks to this immense infrastructure, ready for use, the decision to reactivate this particular deterrent will not require much effort. The goal is to have this missile system ready by 2020.

The greatest challenge for Russia is in building the new trains. Of the 12 available in Soviet times, 10 were destroyed according to the START-2 framework agreement and 2 ended up in museums. In terms of design they will be based on blueprints already used in the past. The great advantages of this system is the possibility of camouflaging the train completely , passing it off asa regular commercial train. This prevents the enemy from tracking it or follow the deployment of nuclear warheads. In addition, in some places the dense railway network  penetrates hundreds of meters inside mountain ranges guarantying protection and virtually absolute invisibility. Other features include new electronic warfare systems (ECM) installed on the trains.

The major technological overhaul will allow the trains ‘Barguzin’ to transport six RS-24 Yars ICBMs, instead of maximum three outdated Scalpel missles on the old Molodets model. The nuclear arms are probably smaller than the Molodets missiles system that had 10 MIRVed warheads yielding more than 5 megatons. Instead, each Yars has four warheads totaling up to 1.2 megatons. Yars are much less devastating but much more accurate and have a greater range. In the art of modern nuclear deterrence, combined with the ABM being developed, precision, speed and invisibility is far more important than megatons.

Service life estimates are a minimum of 20 years, with the possibility of modernizing to extend their operational period.

Russia aims to create a strategic level of nuclear deterrent to deploy and use, significantly faster than their American colleagues . In this sense the Barguzin is a formidable system for multiple reasons but mainly for its ability to be deployed in remote areas quickly. The train is capable of traveling 1000km per day providing enormous flexibility in terms of displacement and positioning.

In terms of nuclear doctrine, it should be remembered that the train's missiles are to be understood as second strike capabilities. Nevertheless, the return of missile trains is yet another example of how Russia is focusing on nuclear deterrence, improving all its strategic forces.

It’s very difficult to find actual footage of the Moldets tests. This video, shows a demonstration of the old Soviet Missile train launching a missile.

<figcaption>Soviet Railway-Based RT-23 Molodets</figcaption>
Soviet Railway-Based RT-23 Molodets

[video:www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEnw7E86tWE]
 


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