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Does Russia really need a ‘nuclear train’?

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MOSCOW – Russia’s train-driven Barguzin missile project could be revived, leaving only one question as to Russia’s need to resuscitate it, says an international security expert.

For academic Aleksei Arbatov, the statement by expert Yuri Solomonov, who said the Yars missile was also designed for a rail car, suggests that this is a sign that “Barguzin could be resurrected.”

“Another question is whether this is technically rational. Mobile ground transportation systems are much more universal: they do not require railways, bridges and their route is unpredictable, whereas by rail is visible,” the academic in Geneva said on the sidelines of the Luxembourg Forum meeting.

According to the expert, the experience of the Soviet rail missile has shown that base stations are “extremely vulnerable, and it is not a fact that railways can quickly prevent an attack,” but the risk of sabotage must be considered.

In Arbatov’s opinion, “many write” that Barguzin “will travel across the country,” but forget that during a pre-war period, any rail network is overwhelmed with troop and cargo movement.

“We could have invented Yars for bombers and heavy submarines, and instead of Bulava we could have made it bigger, put it on rafts and put it under the sea – but for what? We need to be more rational here,” he said.

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System suspension

The Barguzin Soviet analogue, equipped with the Molodets missile, was withdrawn from the Russian Armed Forces under the terms of the START II (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) Treaty in 2015. START III does not prohibit the creation of new systems . The new Barguzin was expected to surpass its predecessor in accuracy, missile flight range, and other features.

The new generation of Barguzin was expected to be developed by 2018, but in 2017 it was reported that work on setting up the new system was suspended.

How it works

The Barguzin system consists of a train identical to a freight train. But inside the wagons are allocated three intercontinental ballistic missiles with 30 warheads of 550 kilotons each. On board are also command centers, technology and communication systems, and garrison personnel.

In case of threat of nuclear war, the Barguzin enters the rail system and circulates camouflaged among the other trains. After receiving the activation order, the train stops and prepares for the attack. The roof of the three wagons opens and the equipment that was hidden puts the launch pads upright. In a few minutes, the release is made.

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