Russia is a big country, with eleven consecutive time zones and plenty of room to hide things like nuclear missiles. Unlike the United States, the Russian Strategic Missile Forces utilize mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles that traverse the backroads of the Russian Federation, prepared to launch their nuclear-tipped missiles against targets worldwide.
The video, shared by the Russian Ministry of Defense’s YouTube channel, shows a missile convoy consisting of an 8x8 mobile transporter-erector-launcher, command vehicles, communications vehicles, armored personnel carriers, drone carriers, and even an armored snow plow—everything needed to protect and launch a nuclear missile on the go.
The missile is either a Topol-M or newer Yars intercontinental ballistic missile, each of which has a range of about 6,800 miles. mounts a single 550-kiloton nuclear warhead (the Hiroshima atomic bomb was a mere 16 kilotons) while mounts three nuclear warheads in the 150 to 200 kiloton range. The missile is carried on a MAZ 7917 8x8 cargo truck, which also serves to lift the missile into the launch position and ultimately launch the missile. From , southwest of Moscow a Yars missile can reach 49 of the 50 states, with only Hawaii out of range.
Placing a country’s ICBM force on the road is a gutsy decision. Although it makes finding and destroying these mobile missile launchers difficult in wartime, it makes them much more vulnerable once found. Roving bombers like the B-2 Spirit and even enemy special forces will be hot on a mobile ICBM’s trail, and a single 5.56-millimeter bullet can disable a nuclear missile. For that reason these convoys are heavily armed, meant to keep saboteurs at arm’s length until the missile is in the air, racing toward the missile fields of Montana. The video emphasizes the missile convoy’s defenses, including aerial drones and armored personnel carriers. The convoy appears to include at least three—and possibly as many as four—mobile missile launchers.
The video concludes with a successful launch of a either a Topol-M or Yars missile from a wooded area and then a clip from the March 2018 of a Russian Sarmat ICBM. A large silo-based missile designed to overwhelm U.S. missile defenses, Sarmat can up to ten thermonuclear warheads at a time. In the video, Sarmat is “cold launched” from a test silo. Cold launching involves ejecting a missile from a silo without using the main rocket motor, which would scorch the inside of the silo. Cold launching ensures that silos can be reloaded within a matter of days—if there’s anyone left to reload them.