Fortress On Wheels: Russia Flaunts Its Heavy-Duty Armored Train Used For Critical Military Missions In Ukraine

On December 7, the Russian defense ministry released a video of an armored train it has deployed as part of what Moscow refers to as its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

The video shows the movement of an armored train, with soldiers sitting behind the windows “covering” the surrounding area with anti-aircraft guns, machine guns, and sniper rifles. 

The crew of the 23-millimeter anti-aircraft guns can be seen stationed on open-top carriages in the footage. When the train stops, sappers and mine detectors check the bridges and railroad tracks.

According to the defense ministry, the special train is designed for technical reconnaissance, mine clearance, and the restoration of the railway track and small man-made constructions with minimal destruction. 

Vyacheslav, the head of the anti-aircraft gun crew, said, “during the movement, we identify low-flying air vehicles with the possibility of hitting up to 1.5 kilometers. Also, fortified positions ground lightly armored vehicles with the possibility of hitting up to 2.5 kilometers. We also support our troops – this is the most basic caliber on our train.”

The additional task of the armored train is to guarantee the security of trains carrying different types of cargo, personnel, and equipment. If required, the train can also serve as a reliable cover for trains carrying civilians. 

The head of the special train, Sergey, said, “It’s a cover platform. It goes first. Its main task is to be the first to take the blow when explosive devices are triggered. It contains materials of the upper structure of the tracks, which allow us to restore the destroyed sections as soon as possible.”

Izvestia, the state-run news outlet, recently published a video that featured the armored train named Amur. A similar train, known as the Yenisei, was dispatched in March to Melitopol in the southeast Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia Oblast, which Russia annexed in September.

According to an Izvestia journalist’s post on Telegram, the armored train was used to inspect potentially hazardous track sections. The reporter said the train could also be combat saboteurs since it is equipped with the ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft gun. 

Russia’s Armored Trains 

Russia is believed to possess four armored trains from the post-Soviet era. However, by the late 2000s, these trains had mainly been disassembled. Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu authorized the restoration of these trains into combat service in 2016.

In 2016, two of them, Baikal and Amur, participated in a logistical exercise that included operations in Crimea. It was the first time Russia’s armored trains had engaged in drills anywhere in the country in 15 years.

Russia’s armored trains can transport tanks and APCs in several combinations. They also have armored carriages that are loaded with anti-aircraft weapons and artillery. The locomotives are heavily protected against kinetic strikes.

Armored train
A replica of the ‘Hurban’ Armored train located in Zvolen, Slovakia. (Wikimedia Commons)

The typical objectives of these trains include escorting supply trains, maintaining rails in combat zones, removing mines, protecting crucial logistical hubs, and backing up infantry. They can also transport valuable items and personnel.

Brent M Eastwood, Defense and National Security Editor at 19FortyFive, a foreign policy web magazine, previously told EurAsian Times that the deployment of these armored trains demonstrates the Russians’ concern and perhaps desperation about their logistical supplies coming under attack. 

He noted, “the guns on the armored trains can protect against the Turkish TB2 unmanned aerial system that the Ukrainians are flying to significant effect. “

Similar to the Soviets, the Russian military transports almost everything by rail system. Additionally, trains are used for the majority of transportation in Ukraine.

“These trains seem like they come out of something you would see in the early stage of the Cold War, so it shows that the Russians are digging deep into their arsenal of tools to fight Ukraine,” Eastwood noted. 

Russia is the largest country in the world by land, yet its roadways are in poor shape compared to Western nations. This helps to explain why trains are so crucial to the nation’s and army’s logistics.

Given these facts, the Russian military may consider that these armored trains offer additional capabilities to support Moscow’s action in Ukraine.