MOSCOW — Russia is developing a new intercontinental ballistic missile mounted on a railway car in a bid to counterbalance prospective U.S. weapons, a senior military officer said Wednesday.
Col. Gen. Sergei Karakayev, the chief of the military's Strategic Missile Forces, said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies that the new weapon will be much easier to camouflage than its predecessor. The Soviet-designed railway missiles were scrapped in 2005.
Karakayev said the Yars missile intended for the project is much lighter than the Soviet-built system and could be put inside a regular refrigerator car unlike its predecessor, which required a heavier and bigger car that could be detected by enemy intelligence.
"No matter how they tried to hide it, any expert would figure out that it wasn't a regular train," Karakayev said.
Missiles hidden inside railway cars are far more difficult to spot and destroy compared to other land-based missiles, and thus have a better chance to survive an enemy strike.
"It could easily be put in a conventional refrigerator car ... which can travel on any route," Karakayev said.
The Kremlin has vowed to develop new types of weapons in response to U.S.-led NATO missile defense in Europe.
Earlier this week, Lithuania and Poland expressed concern about signals that Russia has deployed state-of-the-art missiles in its westernmost exclave of Kaliningrad that borders the NATO countries.
President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials also have voiced concern about the "prompt global strike" weapons under development in the U.S., which would be capable of striking targets anywhere in the world in as little as an hour with deadly precision.
The U.S. plans included modifying some of the existing nuclear-armed missiles to carry conventional warheads as well as designing new vehicles capable of traveling at hypersonic speeds.
In his state-of-the nation address last week, Putin refrained from naming the U.S., but described the "prompt global strike" program as an attempt to tilt the strategic balance in the United States' favor and vowed to counter it.
Karakayev said the development of a new railway-based missile was part of a Russian response to "prompt global strike."
Russia has increasingly relied on nuclear weapons in its military strategy to compensate for a post-Soviet decline in its conventional forces. The nation's military doctrine says it may use nuclear weapons to counter a nuclear attack on Russia or an ally, or a large-scale conventional attack that threatens Russia's existence.
Russia-West ties have become increasingly strained over the U.S. missile shield, Western criticism of Russia's human rights record and, most recently, Ukraine.