Developers of strategic strike systems return to Soviet rails
The Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering, in cooperation with a number of enterprises, is actively working on the creation of a new combat railroad missile system (BZHRK) "Barguzin". In this regard, it is worth recalling that we already had a RT-23UTTKh ("Molodets") BZHRK, which caused serious concern for our military-political opponents.
For many years, the existence of the BZHRK in our country, and even more so the data on their appearance were strictly classified information. Activities in this area were carried out in compliance with the strictest regime measures.
At the very beginning of the development of rocket and space systems, it became clear that it would not be possible to keep the location of strategic missile installations secret. Then different thoughts about character were voiced, different scenarios of future wars were considered. There were serious discussions involving the military and industry. As a result, the doctrine of a guaranteed retaliatory strike, that is, deterrence, received approval.
Accordingly, measures were required to increase the combat stability of ground-based RKs. It was believed that mobile missile systems (PRK), or at least part of them, would survive and be able to participate in a retaliatory strike.
Sketches of the future complex
Work on the PPK developed in two directions. The Moscow Institute of Thermal Engineering was engaged in the mobile ground rocket complex (PGRK), and the BZHRK - the Ministry of General Machine Building of the USSR.
The program for the development of the RT-23 and RT-23UTTKh complexes, including the BZHRK, involved a unique cooperation of enterprises of the industrial ministries and the USSR Ministry of Defense. A qualitatively new system required the solution of many problems in the field of technologies, new materials, and element base. Direct state regulation was carried out by the Commission on Military-Industrial Issues under the Council of Ministers of the USSR. The Ministry of Defense acted as a state customer, controlled the process, and performed certain types of work. The Ministry of General Machinery was responsible for the task as a whole and the main components of the complexes.
The head organization engaged in the creation of the RT-23UTTKh BZHRK, as well as missiles and first-stage engines, was the Yuzhnoye design bureau in Dnipropetrovsk, led by General Designer Vladimir Utkin.
Design Bureau "Yuzhnoye" worked together with PA "Yuzhny Machine-Building Plant", they were located on the same territory and formed a Dnipropetrovsk missile cluster together with related enterprises. The Pavlogoradsk Mechanical Plant, which was part of the PO, manufactured and tested solid-fuel engines of the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau, assembled and tested RT-23 missiles, assembled, tested and handed over BZHRK.
The St. Petersburg Design Bureau of Special Engineering was responsible for the combat railway complex as a whole and the launcher (PU). Perm NPO Iskra - for the third stage complex. Moscow Research Institute of Automation and Instrumentation - for the control system. The Moscow Region Central Research Institute of Mechanical Engineering conducted an analysis of the prospects for the development of rocket technology, carried out an examination of design materials for the complexes, and analyzed the course of experiments. In total, several hundred industrial enterprises took part in the program.
BZHRK was not born out of nowhere. The base for it was the work carried out in the 50-60s in the USSR on various RKs. On the other hand, in the USSR, for many years, they were also engaged in heavy artillery systems on railway transporters. A specific experience has been accumulated, which served as a starting point for the emergence (of course, on a different technical basis) of railway starting RKs. However, this apparently attractive idea turned out to be extremely difficult to implement. The level of development of rocketry, solid propellant propulsion, materials, solid fuels, control systems was still insufficient. The military and industrialists did not have a single view of the required characteristics. There were heated discussions, tactical and technical tasks changed many times. What was happening was greatly influenced by the tempting idea of saving time and money by creating single missiles for various complexes, or at least unifying their main elements.
At the first stage, in 1967, a preliminary design of the RK RT-21 appeared, one of the options for which was the railway complex. The weight of the RT-21 with a transport and launch container (TPK) was estimated at 42 tons, the length together with the TPK was 17 meters. The rocket had three stages, all used solid-propellant engines with mixed fuel.
The project of the railway complex with RT-21 showed the fundamental possibility of the emergence of mobile railway complexes of intercontinental range and served as a prototype for the subsequent developments of the Yuzhnoye design bureau.
However, all work on the RT-21 was stopped at the stage of sketches. Numerous upgrades required a new element base, fuels, materials. At the same time, the requirements of the customer, represented by the Ministry of Defense, grew faster than the possibilities of their implementation.
In pursuit of the wishes of the customer
At the next stage, the Yuzhnoye design bureau is entrusted with the preparation of a project for the RT-22 complex with a 15Zh43 solid-propellant rocket, the launch mass of which was to be determined based on the dimensions of the mine launchers in service with the RT-2 and UR-100, as well as taking into account the possibility of the appearance of a mobile complex railway-based. That is, it was about unification. Based on this, the launch weight of 15Ж43 with an intercontinental range was already 70 tons.
In 1969, approval in principle was obtained. But it was not possible to move from active design to the next stage: the customer was not satisfied with the effectiveness of the rocket, as well as the high cost and duration of the complex. In 1973, the program was frozen. Nevertheless, the possibility of a significant increase in the rocket energy due to the use of new fuels has been proven. The provision of capacities for the production of the engines themselves and their testing turned out to be extremely important. A fundamental shift in the solid-fuel direction occurred at the stage of work on the RT-22 complex, when a large-sized solid-fuel 15D122 appeared.
This was followed by the birth of a family of unified large-sized engines for the first stages of missiles. It was required to ensure the common design of the first stage engines for the RT-23 and the D-19 naval missile. Design Bureau "Yuzhnoye" and Design Bureau of Mechanical Engineering were jointly engaged in the definition of mutually acceptable characteristics. By May 1973, it was possible to select the parameters for the first stages of both.
It was not possible to achieve complete unification, but most of the design solutions for the ZD65 were also used when creating the 15D206 for the 15Zh44.
In general, 3D65 was going very hard. The main problems were associated with ensuring the operability of the thrust vector control system, which was carried out by blowing hot gas into the supercritical part of the nozzle. Many tests ended in accidents, each of which was perceived as a disaster. Due to the heroic efforts of developers and leading industry institutes, the maritime complex was nevertheless put into operation.
Against this background, in 1973, they began to create the RT-23 complex with a stationary shaft launch.
Permanent increase by the customer of the requirements for characteristics, on the one hand, required from Yuzhnoye design bureau a constant search for ways of their implementation and in some cases this led to original conclusions, and on the other hand, it certainly increased the time of the complex creation.
As a result of a serious discussion that has flared up on the dimensions of the rocket, a decision is made on the launch weight of about 100 tons. Subsequently, the following weight and size characteristics were specified: launch weight ~ 106 tons (subject to restrictions under the SALT-2 Agreement) and length in transport position - 21.9 meters (to ensure the planned placement in the BZHRK launcher). The missile was originally supposed to have a monoblock combat equipment and was intended to be installed in stationary mine launchers. However, in 1979, the requirements changed again: it was considered expedient to replace the monoblock warhead with a multiple warhead capable of carrying up to 10 warheads and a set of missile defense penetration means. An order was also received to create not only a stationary complex with 15Ж44, but also a combat railway complex with 15Ж52 (based on 15Ж44).
Caution, the roof opens
In parallel with the birth of the rocket, work was underway on the combat railway launch complex (BZHSK). A very large amount of ground experimental honing of the elements of the rocket and the launch complex and their systems was required. Three special trains were prepared to carry out several cycles of transport tests.
15ZH61 BZHRK RT-23 in its final form in TPK had a length of 21.9 meters, in flight with an inflated tip it increased to 23 meters. Diameter - 2.4 meters. The starting weight is 104.5 tons. Serious equipment included, in particular, up to 10 warheads.
The rocket in the carriage was in the TPK. During operation, it was not removed from it. The opening roof of the car was used not only during start-up, but also during technological operations.
During the launch, the BZHRK stopped if it was in motion. Then, a special system was diverted to the side of the electrical contact network, additional side supports of the launch car and elements of the aiming system were exposed. After that, the roof was opened and, using a pneumatic drive with a powder pressure accumulator, the TPK with a rocket was raised to a vertical position. Then a mortar launch was made.
One of the main tasks in the creation of the BZhSK is the need to reduce the load on the axle of the starting car to the permissible values. The mass of the launcher together with the missile in the TPK exceeded 200 tons, which, with a reasonable number of axles, contributed to an unacceptable load on each. The problem was solved by transferring part of the load to adjacent, front and rear cars using special devices and using an increased number of axles - two four-axle bogies instead of the usual two two-axle ones. This method of reducing the axle load with its decomposition into adjacent cars was previously used in heavy artillery railway installations. The power elements of the three-car coupling were hidden in the inter-car passages.
A three-car hitch was a starting module that did not split during normal operation. The BZHRK had three such modules. If necessary, each of them could go on patrol routes independently (it was enough to attach one of the diesel locomotives available in the BZHRK).
To ensure launches on electrified road sections, a rather complex system of short-circuiting and diverting the contact network was designed. This was necessary to ensure launch from any point on the patrol route. The BZHRK was equipped with equipment not only for conventional communication systems, but also with a special combat control system.
In terms of the duration of the stay of personnel in a confined space, working conditions and habitability, the BZHRK turned out to be similar to a missile submarine. In the BZHRK cars, the personnel were accommodated in a compartment. There were warehouses for food and supplies, kitchens, canteens. By their design, the places of combat duty resembled the workplaces of stationary RC personnel.
Flight tests of the RT-23 BZHRK, and then the RT-23UTTKh were carried out at the Plesetsk test range under the leadership of the state commission. The first launch of 15Ж44 for a stationary launch took place in October 1982. Approbation of 15Ж52 from BZHRK began in January 1984.
The need to further improve the characteristics of the rocket and re-equip the launch complex immediately became apparent. A special action plan was developed for the complex with improved tactical and technical characteristics (UTTH). BZHRK with UTTH received the name "Well done".
The first launch of the RT-23UTTKh (15ZH61) from the BZHRK took place in April 1985, even before the completion of the RT-23 (15Zh52) launches from the railway start. Flight tests of the BZHRK RT-23UTTKh were completed in December 1987. Later, in 1998 and 1999, two more test launches were carried out.
Combat duty with and without departure
The development of the BZHRK began in the Kostroma missile division. The first regiment was formed in advance, back in 1983. The command of the division and the regiment had to master new railway equipment practically from scratch, create a training and material base, equip posts for duty and parking areas of the BZHRK.
The first missile regiment with RT-23UTTKh went on experimental combat duty in October 1987. In total, three missile divisions were deployed, armed with BZHRK with RT-23UTTH. They operated 12 BZHRK, each of which was a regiment. It was armed with one train with three launchers.
Contrary to popular belief, the BZHRK did not "rush" all over the country, although they could. Their operation was carried out in the positional areas allocated for each division. Each had a permanent station in which the trains were serviced. The trains were located at a distance of several kilometers from each other in stationary structures. With an increase in the degree of combat readiness, they could be dispersed along the routes of combat patrols. When moving along the country's railway network, the BZHRK made it possible to quickly change starting positions up to thousands of kilometers per day.
After the decision was made to deploy the BZHRK, the USSR Ministry of Railways carried out large-scale work to prepare future routes for combat patrols. Several thousand kilometers of tracks have been modernized.
The peculiarity of the BZHRK was that before it could arrive at the point of permanent deployment, it was moved from the manufacturing plant in Pavlograd to a station located nearby. They were kept on it for seven days, showing all the space reconnaissance assets of the partners under the START Treaty. And only after that they were sent to the point of permanent deployment. Formally, this followed from the Soviet-American strategic arms control treaties. Another and more compelling reason is to show the potential aggressor really existing systems capable of striking back.
As for the identification by the enemy of the BZHRK on the patrol route, he was not completely an invisible train. An experienced specialist could see that this is an unusual train. But where and when he would proceed further was not reliably determined.
Practice has shown that with a well-developed warning system of an enemy attack and a BZHRK movement control system, providing for an emergency exit from its parking lot, it was not possible to hit it or disable it. During this time, the BZHRK could retire to a distance guaranteeing its survival. During the threatened period with the bringing of the troops to the highest degree of combat readiness, the intensity of the movement of the BZHRK on patrol routes could be seriously increased.
Until 1991, the BZHRK of three divisions of the Strategic Missile Forces carried out combat service on the railways of the USSR. This was a problem for the US military-political establishment. America constantly put pressure on the leadership of the USSR to eliminate this threat. And she achieved success in this. In 1991, a decision was made to carry out combat duty of the BZHRK at the bases without going to the country's railway network. This almost completely deprived of any sense of the existence of the BZHRK. For more than 10 years, the BZHRK stood, as they say, in a joke.
In the next START II Treaty, signed in January 1993, the key provision was the elimination of all "heavy class" ICBMs and mobile missile systems. In response to the US initiative to allegedly stop the development of rail-based MX ICBMs, the leadership of our country hastened to announce the refusal to further deploy and modernize the RS-23UTTKh ICBMs.
King of the Land Ocean
The warranty period for the operation of the BZHRK 15P961 complex was at first relatively short. Then it was extended to 15 years. Accordingly, the use of the very first complexes put on duty became impossible in 2001. The service life of all 15Ж61s for natural reasons was limited to the mid-2000s.
Unlike domestic rockets with liquid propellant rocket engines, which remain operational in a fueled state for three decades, rockets with solid propellants, according to the specifics of the fuels used, have a shorter service life.
In the United States, to extend the service life of the Minuteman missiles, it was used to remove solid propellant charges from the engine casings and then fill them with new fuel. However, in the context of the rupture of political and economic ties between Russia and Ukraine, a shortage of funds, an unstable functioning of financial systems, a catastrophic degradation of governing bodies, the washing out of qualified and experienced specialists from them, the implementation of such a program in relation to RT-23UTTKh (15ZH61) turned out to be unrealistic.
So the decommissioning and subsequent liquidation of 15Ж61 in 2002-2006 had not only political, but also technical and organizational reasons. In September 2005, the last missile division of the BZHRK was removed from combat duty. By the beginning of 2007, all 15Ж61 were disposed of (using American funds), and the launchers were liquidated.
The history of the BZHRK could have continued, because simultaneously with the adoption of the railway complex with the RT-23UTTH KB Yuzhnoye began design work on the promising solid-fuel complex Ermak (RT-23UTTHM). All the experience gained was taken into account, new materials and fuels were used. The program was frozen for political reasons.
In modern conditions, the presence in Russia of a capable army, including effective strategic nuclear forces in any conditions, remains a powerful factor in international stability, a guarantee of national sovereignty. They must survive in the event of an attack on Russia and inflict unacceptable damage on the potential aggressor by blocking his unwanted actions. There is no doubt that if Russia at the turn of the century had not retained the even reduced, but efficient potential of the strategic nuclear forces, history would have followed a completely different path.
PRK is one of the effective means of strategic nuclear forces. It is not for nothing that the United States achieved their liquidation by Russia. BZHRK in a sense is the equivalent of nuclear submarines with SLBMs, the biggest advantage of which was the difficulty of detection and, accordingly, defeat. But submarines, operating in the oceans outside the country's territorial waters, are difficult to control and can be exposed to a wide variety of reconnaissance and strike weapons. Moreover, these funds are rapidly developing. Boats need constant protection and support with highly expensive and sophisticated naval facilities.
At the same time, Russia possesses a unique resource - a huge sovereign territory, and in this land ocean it is difficult not only to detect the BZHRK, but also to hit it. And the use of existing natural and man-made shelters makes this task even more difficult. In addition, it is much easier and cheaper to operate simple rail vehicles, as well as points of permanent deployment on its territory, than submarines with SLBMs.
Mobile railway complexes are of particular interest as an effective means of countering the new US approach to the deployment of a missile defense system with a sea-based priority, the means of which can be deployed to any region of the ocean. But even faster can be thrown across the territory of Russia BZHRK. Because of this, the deployment today of work on the creation of the Barguzin BZHRK is the most important strategic task.