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Russia Mulls New Rail-Based Missile Launcher

A senior Russian defense official said arms firms are in the "early stages" of preparing a new railway-based ICBM launcher, Russia's Vedomosti newspaper reported on Thursday.

"It is not particularly expensive yet," Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said. "Besides, we will have to analyze the existing railway infrastructure and decide whether or not it will do."

A Russian defense insider said Moscow had yet to reach any "political decisions with regard to missile trains," and such technology is "just one of the options we are toying with."

The United States has also commissioned a study of using rail cars or other means of fielding mobile missiles.

A number of developments since the end of the Cold War would affect any use of rail-based missile launchers in Russia, according to one insider.

"When a missile is fired, pressure on the railroad bed is such that it has to be reinforced. And that was done in the Soviet Union. Sophisticated Topol-M and Bulava missiles are much lighter. They may be used in missile trains, and their use won't require that much in terms of investments in infrastructure," the source said.

Concealing movements by the launchers would prove to be a greater challenge than in the past, the insider added. "Missile trains ought to be moving secretly, the way they did in the USSR., but we do not live in the Soviet Union anymore. This is Russia, and Russia is different."

In addition, "there are lots of private businesses running railroads in Russia these days," the source said.

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