"Well done" in American style - unsuccessful debut

"Well done" in American style - unsuccessful debut
"Well done" in American style - unsuccessful debut

At an early stage in the implementation of the Minuteman program, it was planned to create and put into service intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) of this family of two basing types - stationary mine and mobile railway. The US Air Force Strategic Air Command expected to deploy 50 to 150 missiles from the general squad of Minuteman-class ICBMs at the railway base. The representatives of the Strategic Air Command sent the corresponding request and the preliminary developed tactical and technical requirements to the US Air Force headquarters on February 12, 1959. Moreover, the document stated that the first such combat railway missile system (BZHRK) with intercontinental ballistic missiles of the "Minuteman" type should take up combat duty no later than January 1963.

On October 12, 1959, the US military for the first time publicly announced a plan for the implementation of the BZHRK program with an intercontinental ballistic missile "Minuteman" I (the program received the symbol "Mobile Minuteman"), according to which the use of the railway network was to increase the invulnerability of the "Minuteman" from a nuclear strike from the Soviet Union. In the article "American missiles" Minuteman "talk about the end of the era of bombers" (US Minuteman Missile To Signal Bomber Era End), published in the newspaper Toledo Blade from 28.11.1960, it was stated, in particular: "Officials claim that the enemy to neutralize the park Rail-based minutemans will need to fire more than 10,000 missiles against the United States rail network, and several thousand more will be needed to disable the silo launchers as well as the rest of the US missile capability. But many missiles will still survive the attack and be able to retaliate."


In order to determine the technological feasibility and military feasibility of deploying Minuteman-class ICBMs on the basis of a mobile railway launch complex, the US Air Force Strategic Aviation Command ordered a number of development and testing work, which were combined into a program codenamed Operation Big Star "(Operation Big Star). The general supervision of the tests was carried out by the headquarters of the Strategic Air Command, from which special groups were allocated, located at the US Air Force Base Hill, Utah, and directly on the experimental prototype trains themselves, and the person responsible for the direct testing and study of all the necessary issues was assigned to the US Air Force's Ballistic Missile Research Division.

As part of these tests, which took place from June 20 to August 27, 1960, several so-called experimental trains of the Minuteman Mobility Test Train were involved, which went on "patrol" from the US Air Force Hill Hill … The tests were carried out on railways in the western and central United States.

The main purpose of the tests is the study by specialists of various issues related to the promising possibility of creating and adopting a combat railway missile system with ICBMs of the Minuteman type:

- the degree of mobility of the BZHRK and the possibility of their dispersal along the used railways;

- the technical capabilities of the US railway network to provide combat patrolling of such a BZHRK;

- Problems of ensuring reliable and anti-jamming control and communication with such a BZHRK as part of its combat patrol;

- possible negative effects on the rocket and the launch equipment of the BZHRK due to vibration and other influences;

- the peculiarities of human perception of such a method of combat duty, the level of physical and psycho-emotional stress on the personnel of the BZHRK, etc.


Initially, it was planned to involve six specially equipped "heavy" trains in the tests, but in the end, only four experimental trains - the prototype BZHRK - took part in the "Big Star" operation, which performed test runs along 21 sections of the railway network in its north-western and mid-western sections:

- the first train, which included 11 units of rolling stock (a locomotive and wagons with equipment and personnel), left the Hill Air Force Base on June 21, 1960 and ran on the railways operated by the Union Pacific, Western Pacific and Denver & Rio Grande. The total distance covered by the train was 1,100 miles (about 1,800 km);

- the second experimental train - the prototype of the BZHRK, the commander of which was appointed Colonel Carlton W. Hansen, also included 11 units of rolling stock, also departed from the Hill base and ply the same area as the first train, and in the same period of time. The "combat crew" of the train included both military personnel from the Strategic Aviation Command (31 people under the command of Colonel Lucion N. Powell), and 11 civilian personnel - engineers, technicians and specialists in the operation of railway transport and logistics. For 10 days of "travel" the train covered 2300 miles, that is, about 3760 km;

- the third train left the Hill base the following month, July 26, and, unlike previous trains, included 13 units of rolling stock, including an additional platform car, on which the third stage of the rocket developed by the Hercules Powder Company was placed, as well as the first "pre-prototype »Platforms - an ICBM launcher, which had a length of 24 m and was equipped with special shock-absorbing devices. On the "pre-prototype" a mock ICBM was installed in the form of steel compartments filled with sand and concrete. It was planned that the train will make a 14-day "journey" on the railways - routes of seven American companies, the total duration of which will be 3 thousand miles (about 4900 km). Operated by a crew of 35 troops from the US Air Force Strategic Air Command and the US Air Force's Ballistic Missile Research Division, plus 13 civilian specialists;

- The fourth experimental train, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James F. Lambert, was tested in August 1960.

Upon completion of the test of the fourth experimental train - the prototype BZHRK with the Minuteman missile - the goals of Operation Big Star were, in the opinion of the US Air Force command, generally achieved, and therefore it was decided not to use the remaining two trains - the fifth and sixth.


Based on the test results, the US Air Force Strategic Aviation Command decided to create a mobile strategic missile wing. It is known for certain that as of December 13, 1960, in a hangar at one of the Boeing Airplane Co. there was already a "ready-made full-size model of the Minuteman rocket train." It is also known that the plan for the implementation of the Mobile Minuteman program, announced on October 12, 1959, contained information about the Pentagon's intention to build a BZHRK assembly facility in the western part of Hill Air Force Base, where the Ogden Ordnance Depot was previously located.

According to information available in foreign sources, in the basic version, a missile train with three Minuteman I ICBMs was supposed to include 10 wagons for various purposes, including five for accommodating (living) personnel, carrying out combat duty and performing various maintenance work. complex. According to the test results, it was revealed that to service one rocket train with five intercontinental ballistic missiles, not 30-40 people are required, but 25-30. The actual combat crew of two officers was housed in one of the cars in a specially equipped section, and their combat posts (places) were separated from each other by a partition made of bulletproof glass. With a five-rocket ammunition load, the number of cars had to be at least 15, including six cars for placing missiles and various launching equipment, three for placing communications equipment, telemetry and various general technical equipment, two for spare missiles (if necessary), and two cars - for living quarters, a dining room and amenity rooms of personnel. Based on the test results, it was decided in the future to include in the rocket train also ambulance, hospital and freight cars, a car for transporting water and fuel.

The transport-launch car or railway mobile launcher of the BZHRK with an intercontinental ballistic missile of the Minuteman type was ultimately designed for one missile (at the initial stage, an option for two missiles was also considered), structurally it should have included: an electro-hydraulic lifting device for transferring ICBMs in a vertical position and a power drive for it; launch pad with a gas reflector; damping system to reduce shock and vibration loads on the rocket during transportation, vertical positioning and launch; as well as an outer protective shell-body - to protect the rocket from various external influences and mask the true purpose of the car. In the process of prelaunch preparation, a significant part of the car roof - the launcher - was thrown away, and the rest was hinged behind the end of the car. Folding hydraulic supports were supposed to ensure the stability of the car when firing.

The cars for the residence of personnel, for carrying out combat duty and for performing various works on the maintenance of the complex, the specialists of the logistics area of the Hill Air Force base had to re-equip from the available railroad cars of the US Ground Forces, and the transport and launch cars were to be produced at the Base Defense Depot Ogden Utah (DDOU), also known as Utah General Depot. The latter were carried out on the basis of a standard freight railway platform car, which was lengthened by no more than 4 m and had a reinforced chassis, folding sides and a removable roof for lifting the rocket to the launch position.

Initially, it was planned to transfer the promising BZHRK with the Minuteman I ICBM to the US Air Force Strategic Aviation Command in the summer of 1962. For this, on December 1, 1960, the 4062th Strategic Missile Wing (mobile) was officially formed, in which it was planned to include three squadrons of combat railway missile systems, 10 missile trains each. Moreover, each train had to initially carry three ICBMs of the Minuteman I type, and then even five missiles. As a result, with the total number of Minuteman I intercontinental ballistic missiles grouping 600 missiles, silo launchers (silos) had to accommodate 450 missiles, and trains - 150 missiles (30 trains with five missiles each).


The American military and representatives of the military-industrial complex actively advertised the idea of a missile train with Minutemans. In particular, specially for the press and VIP-persons in 1960 in the hangar of the Boeing company in 1960 a mock-up of a combat railway complex with Minuteman I ICBMs was assembled. However, this did not help in any way.

On March 28 (according to other sources, March 18), 1961, US President John F. Kennedy announced the decision, instead of three missile squadrons with mobile combat railway missile systems, to put on alert a number of missile squadrons similar in number of missiles, with ICBMs deployed in highly protected silos. In fact, it was a decision to close the program for creating a BZHRK, one of the reasons for which was the too high cost of the practical implementation of such a program.

On May 19, 1961, the Pentagon leadership "temporarily postponed" the final consideration of the further fate of the BZHRK program with Minuteman ICBMs, and on December 7, 1961, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara announced the decision to close the program due to its high cost (another 1 December). Finally, on February 20, 1962, the US Air Force Strategic Aviation Command disbanded the 4062nd Strategic Missile Wing.

However, the already created prototypes of missile trains were not sent for scrap, they found more effective use - as a means of delivering ICBMs of the Minuteman family from manufacturing plants to places where the positional areas of the grouping of these intercontinental ballistic missiles were deployed. The first ICBM "Minuteman", assembled at an enterprise in Utah, was sent in July 1962 to the location of silos from the territory of plant No. 77 on a transport-loading vehicle specially developed within the framework of the Minuteman program, which was delivered to the designated area on the created as part of the BZHRK program, a platform car with a length of 85 feet (25, 91 m).

This is how the first American attempt to create a BZHRK ended ingloriously, on the work on which about $ 100 million had already been spent by that time. The main reasons for abandoning this venture, according to American sources, were:

- the high cost of storing and maintaining ICBMs on railway launch platforms (according to the calculations of American specialists, the rolling stock of one BZHRK, together with the necessary special equipment and ammunition for six missiles, would cost the budget $ 11.2 million, while the average cost of one ICBM in the variant with silos was about $ 1.5 million);

- a longer, compared to silo-based missiles, the period for preparing missiles for launch (including due to the fact that the coordinates of the missile firing site were not known in advance), as well as a number of others.

However, in the 1980s, the Americans again stepped on the same rake - they tried to create a new BZHRK, in which it was planned to include a more powerful ICBM of the MX type ("Piskiper"). And again it all ended in nothing.

Popular by topic