“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,” says the Czech website Echo24.cz.
“The Ironclad T-14 Armata tank has become a symbol of a new era for tanks and now perhaps we will see the return of armored trains. At this moment we can only speculate what category will be “reanimated” next, but, quite possibly, it will come as a big surprise in the military sphere.”
These comments follow an announcement Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made earlier in August, when he suggested reviving four armored trains which had been decommissioned on the order of his predecessor.
The trains in focus are the Baikal, Terek, Amur and Don, which 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.
The armored trains proved to be irreplaceable as a reliable escort for troops and provisions and for dismantling mines on the tracks, as well as rebuilding damaged rails. Skilled troops travelling aboard such a train are capable of restoring rails within hours.
The news outlet now says that even though an armored train is not of much value in extensive conventional "maneuvering" conflicts, it may be of great use in local asymmetric wars. It could be particularly useful against militants or potential terrorists, ensuring the safety of the railways, the support of sappers or in transporting the injured.
The Czech media outlet is also concerned that Russia might build some “brand new armored trains with heavy weaponry”. If such a train moves in (relative) safety behind the front units, it can be an excellent platform for mounting artillery pieces, such as the MSTA 152mm self-propelled howitzer and Tornado multiple launch rocket system, designed to use 122-mm, 220-mm and 300 mm rockets.
Armored trains, in fact, have a long history. They were used in the American Civil War (1861-65), the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) and in the Boer War in South Africa at the end of the nineteenth century.
The Russian Empire, which saw the extensive use of armored trains in the first half of the twentieth century, used them during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05).
Armored trains also saw action in the years of the Mexican Revolution (1910-20 and in World War I (1914-18).
The peak of activity of the armored trains occurred during the years of the Second World War; the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were the main users of armored trains.