Will Barguzin be brought out of oblivion? What is a railway launch platform


Roskosmos turned to the experience of creating a combat railway missile system (BZHRK) “Barguzin” – a train of several standard cars plying across the country and capable of launching a volley of ballistic missiles at X hour (the project was  closed in 2017). True, in a new variation, as the source assuresTASS: “This will not be a secret train, but a railway launch platform that leaves the technical complex with a rocket and stops at a specially equipped dead end for verticalization and launch.” According to the interlocutor of the agency, it will be possible to launch only ultralight missiles from such a platform, for example, of the Krylo-SV type. Even making an adjustment for the civilian aspect of the technical solution, one cannot but note for oneself that the creation of a mobile missile system, albeit unofficially so far, was announced at the time of negotiations between Moscow, NATO and the United States on security guarantees.

Although a little earlier, the Director General of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, in an interview with the Russian Space magazine, announced the statement of the task to engineers and architects of the Research Institute of Launch Complexes named after V.P. Barmin and other organizations of the state corporation to develop railway platforms for launching light and ultralight rockets. According to him, “interesting proposals are already being heard.”

Open secret

“Barguzin” is the “heir” of the railway complexes “Molodets” with a ballistic missile RT-23 UTTKh (NATO classification SS-24 Stilleto – “Scalpel”). This unique solution was a response to US plans to create a missile train capable of running across North America and launching ballistic missiles at the right time and place. The idea was not only innovative, but also fantastically effective. It is not difficult to see missile positions from space; aiming missiles at them is even easier, because the mines will not go anywhere. But a locomotive, with missiles hidden in its carriages, is quite capable, even in the 18–25 minutes it takes for a Soviet ballistic missile to reach US territory, to seriously move away from the point of release of shells.

In the 1970s, Soviet intelligence was able to obtain this monstrous plan of Washington and photographs of the sample. For our strategists, this was a real shock – in the States there is a weapon system that is capable of destroying the USSR, and we have practically nothing to put against it. Although the option was to create a similar technique in order to balance the potentials. Actually, this became the basis for the decision of the Central Committee of the CPSU, in which the designer Vladimir Utkin, who headed the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau in Dnepropetrovsk, was instructed to begin work on the domestic “hello to America.” You can’t deny the military in romance – upon implementation, the project was called “Cornflower”. It took Utkin only three years to show an analogue of the American train.

In the meantime, it turned out that the Pentagon came to the conclusion that the project was ineffective. The fact is that the network of North American railways is not extensive enough, which means that it will not be easy to hide the rocket train. In addition, it is in private hands and it costs a lot of money to run on the US railway. The Americans also worked out an option in which the train would become underground, laying a ring highway and driving a train along it: no one needs to pay, and it would be impossible to find this road from a satellite. From the practical implementation of this project was kept only by the fact that in order to launch ballistic missiles from the subway, it was necessary to make hatches in certain places. And they, as it is not difficult to assume, would have clear coordinates, which would make the existence of an underground missile carrier meaningless – if the Russian missiles had not hit the train itself, then they would tightly clog the rocket vents. Thus, in order to compensate the Russians (so that we also spent money on development), they leaked ordinary misinformation: they photographed a mock-up of a “rocket train” against the backdrop of nature and began to wait for the return of dividends.


For the times of the Cold War, a very thoughtful, but not new practice is disinformation in order to compensate for their expenses on unsuccessful projects. It was exactly the same with the Shkval high-speed missile – the Americans started to create an ammunition capable of flying under water at a speed of 300 km / h. (despite the fact that the most modern ships went at a three times lower speed), but failed. So during a conference on high-speed underwater movement, someone “accidentally” forgot the report of the main developer of the product in the toilet. It is still kept in the archives of the Moscow State Research and Production Enterprise “Region” (specializes in the creation of marine underwater weapons) – I saw it personally.

Similar stories were connected with the MiG-25 (when we had to redo the codes of the “friend or foe” system for aircraft and missiles), but they still have not been able to repeat the fighter-interceptor.

One “well done”

Vladimir Utkin turned out to be smarter than the Americans. The designer not only created an intercontinental missile capable of delivering ten half-megaton warheads to the United States, but also hid them in a typical train. Unless the experienced eye of the railwayman notes that the cars are not so typical: they have not four, but eight pairs of wheels; instead of windows, simulators protected from the inside by an armor plate. The train is driven by three locomotives. Inside, everything is the same as in ordinary passenger trains – compartments for officers, reserved seats for soldiers; there is a dining room, as well as a first-aid post and rooms for psychological relief. However, from space it is still the same composition of Russian Railways.

As is now known, in total, in the period from 1987 to 1994, three Vasilek facilities were created in the country: in the Kostroma, Perm and Krasnoyarsk regions. Each regiment had three combat units with three RT-23 UTTKh missiles – which is almost a full-fledged regiment of the Strategic Missile Forces. 

The RT-23 UTTKh weighs more than 100 tons, has a solid-fuel engine and flies to a range of 11,000 km. Each of the missiles is equipped with an anti-missile defense system and a high-precision guidance system. Actually, because of its accuracy in the West, it was given the name “Scalpel” – it was intended for the “surgical opening” of well-protected enemy targets: underground bunkers, command posts and mine installations of strategic missile systems. However, that was where the merits ended. Since entering combat duty in 1985, the BZHRK left the territory of the bases only 18 times and passed through the country only 400 thousand km.

However, only after the complexes were destroyed under the Russian-American Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-2) did it become clear why our military leaders easily abandoned the seemingly unique weapons. Whereas, according to the treaty, we were supposed to destroy only systems similar to those in the United States. So the main enemy of the BZHRK all the years of its existence was its own railway department. The trains corny spoiled the railway track and bridges – one car of the “Molodets” complex with a rocket weighed more than 150 tons. The railway management, which could not tolerate such “vandalism”, repeatedly petitioned the Central Committee of the CPSU – they say, war is war, but who is for repairs ways to pay? 

There were no people willing to do this, and trains with missiles did not begin to drive around the country, and the training of rocket carrier machinist officers was transferred to civilian trains that followed the proposed routes of the BZHRK. This turned out to be not only more humane in relation to the railway workers, but also much cheaper and safer. In the meantime, the military personnel received the necessary skills to control the train and a visual representation of the route, which was required, because missiles from the BZHRK could allegedly be launched from any point on their way.

But it was not so. The rocket train still needed an accurate topographic location. To do this, along the entire route of combat patrols, the military built special “sumps”, where a train arrived at X hour. There he could make a volley. It must be understood that these were far from “blizzard stations”, but well-guarded strategic facilities with an infrastructure betraying their purpose.

As I assume, the ballistic missile container was placed in a typical refrigerated car, which is 21 meters long, and the Scalpel is two longer. The American inspectors, who monitored the disposal of our “Good fellows”, sincerely wondered how it was possible to cram something more into a smaller volume. This wonderful secret of our RT-23 UTTKh was known (without suspecting it) by every Soviet schoolboy: remember the tourist soap cups that, with a flick of the wrist, laid out the wall rings into a tube? Exactly on the same principle, Vladimir Utkin made the nozzle and nose cone of the “Scalpel”. Inside the car they are folded, but as soon as the rocket rises above the roof, they will straighten out.

The Krylo-SV, a returnable cruise missile unit, which is supposed to be placed on a new railway launch platform, is not comparable in size to the Stiletto. Also, it does not have the same tasks as a formidable combat missile, as it was created exclusively for commercial purposes and is intended for launching satellites. In my opinion, in this regard, it is the very fact of returning to the idea of ​​​​a railway launcher that is important in this story.

As reported by the Central News Agency of Korea (KCNA), just the other day, the DPRK successfully tested two ballistic missiles. This is the third strategic weapons test carried out by North Korea in the past few weeks. The first launch – a ballistic missile with a hypersonic unit was launched from a mobile installation. The second was a double launch of a rail-based missile regiment. According to the agency, “the missiles successfully hit their target in the East Sea.” The South Korean military said the missiles traveled about 430 km at an altitude of 36 km with a maximum speed that is six times the speed of sound.

Against all this background, I recall and seem to be very revealing an interview with the commander of the Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN) Sergey Karakaev to TASS in 2016. In it, the general announced “the appearance of a mobile ground-based missile system” – RS-26 “Rubezh”. This is a solid-propellant ICBM with improved combat equipment and a multiple warhead (MIRV), as well as a flight range of 6.5 thousand km.

At one time, this missile system became one of Washington’s main irritants in a dispute with Moscow over the parties’ compliance with the terms of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. In the US Congress, the appearance of the RS-26 was called an unprecedented threat to US national security over the past 30 years.

“If we are talking about a mobile ground Yars, then today our launcher weighs more than 120 tons. On this improved rocket, we will achieve weight characteristics of up to 80 tons, it will be lighter,” Sergei Karakaev said in 2016. So, maybe put this rocket not only on a “wheel cart”, but also in a railway car? It is lighter than the RT-23 UTTKh, and the modern canvas can withstand cars weighing more than 100 tons. In addition, the Yars (and Topol-M) complexes no longer need a special topographic location – they are equipped with inertial navigation systems, which means , it will be possible to shoot such a rocket from any point on the route, which, in fact, “Well done” could not.

Easy start

At a press conference at the 72nd International Astronautical Congress in Dubai, Dmitry Rogozin saidthat the prototype of the reusable cruise stage of the Krylo-SV light class missile will be created at the end of 2022. And he noted that the technology used by SpaceX is not suitable for Russia (unlike the Russian concept, the Falcon-9 principle is more like a fall with subsequent braking of the rocket stage over the landing site, while the Russian idea is to land the first stage of the rocket like an airplane using both runways and unequipped areas). “According to ballistic calculations, if we start from the Vostochny cosmodrome, the landing site for rocket blocks is the border of the Sea of ​​Okhotsk and our Far Eastern coast, the Khabarovsk Territory. This zone is completely uninhabited, and the place to pick up our rocket module seems extremely difficult,” Rogozin explained .

The preliminary design of the Krylo-SV reentry stage was prepared and defended by the Advanced Research Foundation (FPI) on May 29, 2019. The development was carried out by KB them. V.M. Myasishchev. In the magazine of the United Aircraft Corporation “Horizon” it was specified that after the rocket reaches a given height, the project involves opening the wing and turning on the jet engine, which will allow the stage to independently return “according to the airplane principle” to the ground. The development of the engine for the Kryla-SV began in 2021, at the same time it was decided to assemble stage demonstrators. In the case of a railway launch platform, it will be possible to launch a rocket from almost anywhere in the country and calculate the most convenient place for its landing.

According to media reports, the product will have a length of 6 m and a diameter of 80 cm. The promising engine received the preliminary name “Whirlwind” – it is a liquid-propellant rocket vehicle with an electric drive of pump units using a fuel pair of oxygen and liquefied gas. The stage is designed for ten “start-landing” cycles, but in the future this figure is planned to be increased to 25. At the same time, the rocket will be able to put up to 600 kg of payload into orbit. Product tests are scheduled for this year and will be carried out at one of the military airfields.

In 2017, in the interests of the Strategic Missile Forces, the Sarmat heavy missile and the Avangard hypersonic maneuvering warhead were developed. It is possible that the freeze on the development of the improved Barguzin railway missile system occurred precisely because of the lack of additional funds. Be that as it may, but the words of the head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin about the creation of a railway platform for the launch of spacecraft indicate that the developments on the Barguzin were more than thorough. Which, in turn, means, in my opinion, that the country can return to the combat train at any moment – for this there will be a launch system and a missile of the Rubezh complex.

Courtesy: (TASS)