I’m not sure whether to be reassured or alarmed that the RVSN, Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces, have this year started receiving a special new armored vehicle, the Typhoon-M, which they describe as a “combat anti-sabotage vehicle that is used for the protection and defense of missile systems, reconnaissance and fighting the enemy’s ranger units.” So far, they have been issued to the Teikovo, Novosibirsk and Tagil RS-24 Yars missile regiments. These go to the forces of the 12th GUMO (12th Main Directorate of the Ministry of Defense), which handles physical security for the RVSN.
I’m not yet sure whether I think the Typhoon-M is a pretty cool piece of kit or an over-specialized and over-loaded white elephant. Based on the BTR-82 chassis, it mounts a very extensive sensor array, including radar, thermal imaging night vision and echolocation, jammers to disable IEDs and even its own little hand-launched surveillance drone (a ZALA 421-08, I think) (there’s a video report here). It only appears to be armed with a turret-mounted 7.62mm machine-gun, but I presume its role is more to locate targets for the rest of the security detail to suppress. Anyway, with all the rest of that kit, there would scarcely be room for more firepower.
I’m all in favor of Russian nuclear weapons being under as much security as possible, but I suppose I find myself wondering why this latest upgrade. The BTR-70 chassis 15Ya56M MBP (mashina boyevogo posta–base security vehicle) 12thGUMO units have been using are OK, not the most advanced kit but nor the worst, and there’s little evidence of a substantially increased threat. This could simply be the usual process whereby all institutions try to get more toys when it’s procurement time, whether they need them or not, or even a sweetheart deal for the defense industries. After all, Russia doesn’t need all those tanks that were ordered and even (ex)minister Serdyukov tried to head off that little gift to the ever-loyal Uralvagonzavod.
My only, and probably entirely needless, concern is whether the Russians have serious worries about the security of their nuclear facilities–and if so, whether they are tackling it the right way. Given that I can’t see “rangers” assaulting them any day soon, whether American, Chinese or whoever, terrorism seems the only viable threat. Given the current fragmentary nature of the terrorist movements, it’s hard to see them staging the kind of serious attack that could penetrate nuclear facilities and make off with materials (as they could certainly not launch any weapons). There have been some cases of corruption and indiscipline within the 12th GUMO, and while I would not want to make these seem more of an issue than they are, I would think that the real need is, as with so many other elements of Russian military reform, not new kit but better training, leadership and morale and all-round professionalization.