In 2017-2018 it became known that the Russian defense industry has stopped work on the creation of a promising combat railway missile system (BZHRK) "Barguzin" for the strategic missile forces. Nevertheless, the topic of rocket trains continues to generate interest and attention. In recent weeks, it has become relevant again in connection with curious messages published by RIA Novosti.
Throughout the entire period of development of the Barguzin BZHRK, its technical features remained unknown. At the end of 2014, domestic media reported that the railway-based complex was being built on the basis of the existing RS-24 Yars missile. However, officials have not confirmed this information.
On November 14, RIA Novosti published an interesting statement by the general designer of the Moscow Institute of Thermal Engineering (MIT), which was developing the Barguzin. Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Yuri Solomonov said that his organization has created a unified complex "Yars" with ample basing capabilities.
A single ballistic missile of this type can be used with a silo launcher (silo), on a mobile soil complex (PGRK) or as part of a BZHRK. In addition, in terms of individual solutions and components, this version of the Yars is unified with the Bulava submarine complex.
This information can be considered an indirect confirmation of reports on the development of "Barguzin" based on the Yars complex. However, at the moment, such information is no longer of particular importance. The development of a new BZHRK was suspended in favor of projects with a higher priority. Due to various factors, the future of Yars missiles in the context of rocket trains has become cloudy.
The question of expediency
Yuri Solomonov's statement became the reason for the resumption of disputes on the need for BZHRK in the arsenals of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces. Opinions on this matter are expressed at different levels. So, on December 5, RIA Novosti published statements by the head of the Center for International Security of the IMEMO RAS, Academician Alexei Arbatov.
The academician sees in the statements of Yu. Solomonov a signal about the possible resumption of the development of "Barguzin". At the same time, the need to create a new BZHRK remains questionable. A. Arbatov recalled that this technique has both pluses and minuses, and this must be taken into account when making decisions.
The academician called the improved camouflage capabilities a positive feature of the BZHRK. A train with missiles on board is almost no different from a freight train. On the other hand, the train is tied to patrol routes - "you can see on the railways what will go where." Train basing points are extremely vulnerable, and the withdrawal of complexes from the blow can be associated with difficulties. Also, the possibility of sabotage at such facilities is not ruled out.
In the context of mobility, according to A. Arbatov, BZHRK are inferior to PGRK on wheeled chassis. The latter do not need railways or bridges. Their patrol routes are virtually unpredictable.
Also, the academician drew attention to the issue of economic feasibility. The unified RS-24 Yars has three basing options - but will there be enough money to implement all these capabilities?
In the context of the development of new Russian weapons, A. Arbatov drew attention to foreign experience. So, in the US Strategic Nuclear Forces, there is only one ground-based missile system using silos. To replace it, another similar sample is created. The expansion of the range of missile systems observed in our country is not used in the United States.
Not a reason for controversy
Until 2017-18, when it became known about the suspension of work on the Barguzin, the topic of creating a new BZHRK was especially popular and there were active disputes around it. The news of the project freeze led to a reduction in such activity. Yu. Solomonov's statements about the existence of a unified Yars and the fundamental possibility of creating a rocket train again led to the well-known results.
The topic is discussed at all levels, up to general designers and academicians. However, such discussions seem to be premature so far. Two years ago, the military and political leadership of Russia ordered to stop work on the Barguzin missile-launcher in favor of other projects with a higher priority.
The first reports of the closure of the Barguzin project mentioned economic reasons for this decision. More details emerged later. The development of the BZHRK and the new PGRK was stopped in order to free up resources for the creation of the Avangard complex, which is of particular importance for the Strategic Missile Forces and for defense capability.
In the future, the "Barguzin" was still remembered, but now it was not considered as a real complex that could be put into service in the coming years. The attention of the Strategic Missile Forces and the Ministry of Defense as a whole is focused on other missile systems.
Against this background, the latest statements by Y. Solomonov look like a simple statement of fact. Developing the existing project and the line of ICBMs as a whole, MIT has developed a unified version of the Yars missile for use on different platforms. The mine and mobile version of the complex is already being actively used by the troops, while the railway has been abandoned. Perhaps already finally.
What could be the complex
According to known data, MIT began the development of the Barguzin BZHRK in 2012 and continued until 2017. In the future, officials disclosed some information, but most of the data came from anonymous media sources. All this made it possible to draw up an overall picture, but how real it turned out is unknown.
It was assumed that in terms of general architecture, the new Barguzin would be similar to the older Molodets complex. It could be made in the form of a train of several cars with launchers, support equipment, command post, living quarters, etc. Tactical and technical characteristics remained unclear until a certain time.
In 2014, the Russian press reported that the Yars-type ICBM or its modification would be used in the Barguzin. This allowed us to draw a number of important conclusions. First of all, it was about the unification of several missile systems of the Strategic Missile Forces in terms of a key element. By that time, RS-24 were already on duty at silo and at PGRK. In the future, they were to be supplemented with ICBMs on trains.
The length of the Yars rocket does not exceed 22-23 m, the launch weight is less than 50 tons. The modern rocket is more than two times lighter than the RT-23 UTTH product of the Molodets complex, which gave serious advantages. A launcher for a rocket with such parameters fits within the limitations of the rolling stock. In particular, there is no need to create a special car with an increased number of wheelsets. Trail requirements are also reduced, which increases the available patrol areas.
BZHRK based on "Yars" could favorably differ from "Molodets" by higher operational characteristics and greater stealth. Such a complex could be a good and convenient addition to other means of the Strategic Missile Forces.
In the fall of 2016, it was reported that at the Plesetsk test site, missile throw tests were carried out for the Barguzin BZHRK. Over the next months, there was no news of this kind, and in December 2017, the press announced the termination of work. Later, the reasons for the closure of the project became known.
A future without trains
The general plans of the Ministry of Defense and the Strategic Missile Forces command for the development of strategic weapons are well known. The main ICBM of the troops is gradually becoming the RS-24 "Yars" in two versions - for mines and for mobile ground complexes. In the near future, a new heavy silo-based missile RS-28 "Sarmat" will appear. The presence of two modern models will make it possible to carry out a serious modernization of the Strategic Missile Forces and increase their potential.
There is no room in the existing plans for the development and deployment of missile systems based on trains. Previously, such systems were considered necessary, which at one time led to the launch of the Barguzin project. Later, it was abandoned in favor of more relevant developments. As far as we know, it is not planned to return to the creation of the BZHRK.
However, based on the results of unfinished work on the Barguzin theme, MIT and other enterprises gained some experience in creating a modern BZHRK for the latest model missile. If necessary, this experience can be implemented in a new project, if the command decides to resume work.