Russia has started mobilizing nuclear weapons unit escort vehicles

A photo recently appeared on social media showing a Russian flatbed train carrying some very rare 4×4 BPM-97 “Vystrel-M” light armoured vehicles with 30mm cannon turrets. It has attracted attention because it is only equipped with the 12th General Directorate of the Russian military in the Russian military, which is responsible for the defense of nuclear weapons throughout the country.

After the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war, Russian officials have repeatedly made nuclear deterrent remarks. Does the mobilization of this vehicle mean that there is some movement in the Russian nuclear arsenal, or is this just a routine deployment training?

Based on the photo, which was geolocated by open source intelligence enthusiasts, it shows that it was taken in the Russian city of Sergiyev Posed, northeast of Moscow, while the train itself was heading southwest. The train was apparently carrying the latest improved version of the BPM-97, also known as KAMAZ-43269.

The original model of the vehicle was developed in the 1990s for use by border guard troops equipped with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). This combat vehicle resembles the BTR-40 armored vehicle and BTR-152 armored vehicle in the early years. It has some steeply angled noses and can install various weapons and equipment.

The prototype car does not have fixed weapons, and needs to be equipped with infantry to use rifles, machine guns or grenade launchers to fight, and 14.5mm machine gun turrets and 30mm machine turrets have been installed in the later period.


Due to the use of a truck chassis, the BPM-97 can carry a crew of 2 and 8 infantry, with a maximum of 12 people. It uses a 240-horsepower engine and can reach a top speed of 90 kilometers per hour. Compared to Soviet-era armoured personnel carriers, it is more perceptive and protective, with multiple windows and a V-shaped hull for mine protection.

In 2008, the BPM-97 armored vehicle entered service and successively entered the special operations forces of the Russian Internal Security Forces and the National Guard, as well as the Federal Prison Service, the Ministry of Emergency Situations and other units. Video from eastern Ukraine in 2015 showed such armored vehicles being used in combat in Ukraine, and at least one was destroyed by Ukrainian forces, showing that its armor is weak.

At the time of the military parade on Red Square in 2021, the latest improved model appeared, that is, the model equipped by the 12th General Bureau.

The vehicle is fitted with the new BM-30D Universal Turret, a non-penetrating overhead unmanned turret with a 30mm 2A42 automatic cannon, a 7.62x51mm PKTM coaxial machine gun and turret top mount 30mm AGS-30 automatic grenade launcher. The BMD-30D turret effectively enhances the firepower of the vehicle and ensures that the crew can operate the weapon package from inside the vehicle body.

In the Russian army, BPM-97 armored vehicles with such turrets are basically only associated with the “anti-sabotage” security task force of the 12th General Directorate of the General Staff (12 GUMO), which is responsible for maintaining, defending and supervising the country nuclear arsenal. Specifically, it will be responsible for escorting the nuclear warhead to the combat unit after receiving the order.

The pictures taken by netizens did not make it clear which troops the vehicles belonged to, where the ultimate goal of the trains was, or whether the trains carried nuclear warheads, but this is even more concerning in the context of the nuclear threat. At present, in addition to those huge ICBMs that have nuclear warheads in the fairing, many tactical nuclear warheads have not been combined with operational tactical ballistic missiles, and many nuclear bombs are also safely stored in their own permanent warehouses.

If necessary, it must be transported by the BPM-97 armored vehicle to the hands of the front-line ballistic missile force, replacing the conventional warhead on the missile with a nuclear warhead.

In particular, a recent video on social media showing the launch of a nuclear-capable Iskander-M tactical ballistic missile has heightened concerns about the use of tactical nuclear weapons.

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