The Russian military has begun reviving its old Soviet-era armored trains, a Czech Republic newspaper reported Friday. The revelation, which was hinted at earlier this month when the Russian minister of defense said that four of the armored trains could be recommissioned, is part of Russia's $400 billion project to modernize and expand its military.
“Russian intentions indicate that in addition to introducing a number of revolutionary new technologies, now comes something of a ‘Renaissance’ of some (supposedly) obsolete categories of military equipment,” the Czech website Echo24.cz wrote.
The four trains -- the Baikal, Terek, Amur and Don -- were used in troop-support missions in the North Caucasus from 2002 to 2009 as part of a specially formed division of the Russian Railway Troops. After the end of the war in Chechnya, the Ministry of Defense, under the previous leadership of Anatoly Serdyukov, decided that the trains could be decommissioned. On the orders of Serdyukov, the arms on the train were dismantled and the cars were sent off to depots.
However, the current defense minister, Sergei Shiogu, has reversed that decision.
Armored trains are generally an old military concept that peaked in use during World War II, but are still useful in very specific military environments. They are typically used to transport precious cargo and troops into the heart of conflict zones, enabling the fortification of strategic cities and towns. Securing or destroying transport links is often the first thing an invading force does during a war.
The recommissioning of the trains comes as the Russian military prepares to introduce the T-14 Armata tank, which it will transport into conflict zones.
Russia's military modernization is expected to be complete by 2020.