Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces are equipped with a special ‘safe-busting’ sledgehammer that can be used in an emergency to break open the safe containing launch codes if it fails to open, a spokesman for the Rocket Forces, Col. Vadim Koval said on Wednesday.
The sledgehammer's existence first came to light in 1980, when a group of inspecting officers from the General Staff visiting Strategic Missile Forces headquarters asked General Georgy Novikov what he would do if he received a missile launch order but the safe containing the launch codes failed to open.
Novikov said he would “knock off the safe’s lock with the sledgehammer” he kept nearby, the spokesman said.
At the time the inspectors severely criticized the general's response, but the General Staff’s top official said Novikov would be acting correctly.
Since then, the sledgehammer has been on combat duty at the Missile Forces headquarters in the closed town of Vlasikha in Moscow region.
The headquarters, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2011, has numerous underground facilities stretching more than 10 kilometers and manned by about 6,000 troops.