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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

12th Main Directorate
(Glavnoye Upravleniye Ministerstvo Oborony)

The 12th Main Directorate (Glavnoye Upravleniye Ministerstvo Oborony) of the Ministry of Defense, more simply known as the 12th GUMO, is the primary military organization responsible for nuclear munitions. The Directorate has functions similar to the US Defense Nuclear Agency for nuclear weapons surety and units in the US military responsible for physical security of nuclear weapons assigned to U.S. military units.

Unlike most other major directorates of the Soviet (and Russian) Defense Ministry, the secretive 12th GUMO was effectively invisible to public view during the Soviet period. The Directorate's history began at the end of the Second World War, when the First Main Directorate was established under the Soviet Council of Ministers to "coordinate work on atomic projects." Two years later a "special department" was set up in the Ministry of Defense to study the employment and effects of US nuclear weapons. After the first test of a Soviet nuclear weapon in 1949, the First Main Directorate and the MoD's special department were merged to form a main directorate "to provide centralized direction of testing, stockpiling, and operating nuclear weapons and . . . protection against nuclear weapons." This organization was the direct progenitor of today's 12th GUMO.

In practice, convinced of the great potential for optimizing organizational measures for improving the combat readiness of military units for the use of nuclear weapons, the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR adopted a resolution on March 12, 1956, in which the Ministry of Medium Machine Building and the Ministry of Defense, until July 15, 1956, transfer in 1956 to the Ministry of Defense of assembly brigades and nuclear bombs located at the military bases of the Ministry of Medium Machine Building, and by the end of 1956 to develop and submit a proposal on the timing and order Transferring from the Ministry of Medium Machine Building of the Ministry of Defense of the functions of receiving, storage and use of nuclear weapons.

The transfer of assembly brigades and nuclear bombs located on the military bases of nuclear weapons of the Ministry of Medium Engineering was carried out in two stages: some of them were transferred before November 15, and the rest - by December 15, 1956.

The Decree of the Government of the USSR of September 23, 1957 required before February 1, 1958 to transfer two central nuclear storage facilities. The transfer of the remaining central nuclear storage facilities was carried out by decision of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR on January 9, 1958. Until June 1, 1958, all nine central bases with nuclear munitions stored in them and personnel were transferred to the Ministry of Defense by the Ministry of Medium Engineering. In early October 1958, the act of transfer was approved by the Resolution of the CPSU Central Committee and the Council of Ministers of the USSR.

The function for ordering nuclear weapons was also completely transferred from the Ministry of Medium Engineering to the Ministry of Defense. As a result of the measures taken in 1958 for an effective, highly cooperative system of development, production on the one hand (Ministry of Medium Engineering) and the operation of nuclear weapons on the other hand (Ministry of Defense), a new military structure was formed that assumed responsibility for directing the work related to providing the Armed Forces with various types of nuclear munitions, their reliable storage and operation.

The Ministry of Defense was tasked with doubling the operational capacity of the central bases for the delivery of nuclear warheads to military bases by the end of 1958, in comparison with the operational plan in force. To accomplish this task, it was necessary to make part of the nuclear munitions stored at the central bases in disassembled condition, to a state close to the maximum degree of readiness, in which they were to be sent to the advanced military bases of nuclear weapons, and to strengthen the assembly brigades by personnel.

The following circumstances contributed to the adoption of this cardinal decision:

  1. completion by the nuclear industry of a comprehensive proven technology for the operation of nuclear munitions, its organizational and logistic support, as well as the practical implementation of the storage of nuclear munitions at central and advanced military bases;
  2. training qualified technical and engineering personnel with the assistance of the Ministry of Medium Engineering, acquiring the relevant experience in the operation of nuclear weapons;
  3. Establishment in the military department of the necessary infrastructure for the operation and use of nuclear weapons.

The nuclear munitions in service (which are in service) on the central storage bases were periodically returned to the serial assembly plants of the Minsredmash: the Electromechanical Plant Avangard and the Electrokhimpribor Plant for routine maintenance. At the end of the warranty period, nuclear munitions were returned to these plants for disassembly and disposal.

The organization of the operation of nuclear munitions at the central and advanced military bases for the storage of nuclear weapons was preceded by the practice of their experimental storage in the KB-11 Minsredmash in Arzamas-16. It was then that operational documentation was developed, the requirements for warehouses were developed, the technology of assembling nuclear munitions was developed to the established degree of readiness, the technology of maintaining the components of nuclear munitions units in the corresponding degrees of readiness. Specialists were trained, and only after that the first "laying" of nuclear munitions was carried out at the central storage bases and military depots.

The first two training centers for the training of specialists who exploit nuclear weapons were created in the 1950s. They were subordinate to the First Main Directorate (since 1953 - the Ministry of Medium Engineering) and were located at two serial manufacturing plants of nuclear weapons: at the serial plant No. 551 (the PMZernov facility, Arzamas-16) and at serial Plant No. 418 (the object of A.Ya. Malsky, Sverdlovsk-45).

The third training center was established at the 71st Air Force training ground and was located in the Crimea (Bagerovo settlement). In 1958 the training centers of Minsredmash were transferred to the Ministry of Defense. They were given the names of the Training Centers of the 12th Main Directorate of the Ministry of Defense. Since April 1959, one of them was headed by Colonel-General IP Telepnya, and the other by Colonel-Colonel K. K. Reshetnyak.

For redeployment of training centers at two objects of the Main Directorate, educational buildings, laboratories, and housing for permanent and variable composition were built. In July 1961, the training centers were moved to new locations. On February 6, 1959, the Training Center was established on the funds of the Training Ground No. 2 (Semipalatinsk Test Site) of the Ministry of Defense, headed by Colonel Boris Kryzhov. October 30, 1961 on the foundation of the Central Research Institute of the Ministry of Defense (Zagors-7) was established the Training Center (headed by Colonel VN Kaminsky). Both training centers were intended for the preparation of assembly brigades for the Missile Forces.

The fact that in August 1958 all the central nuclear ammunition storage bases were handed over to the military department meant that all the functions of the exploitation of nuclear weapons were concentrated in the Ministry of Defense.

The operational principles aimed at preventing unauthorized use of nuclear weapons have essentially remained the same:

  • delimitation of functions, but already within the military department;
  • admission of a limited number of persons to issues of exploitation;
  • strict security regime.

Since then, the following have been engaged in the operation of nuclear munitions:

  • central storage facilities that received nuclear munitions from industry and carried out their storage and operation in established levels of readiness, as well as technical guidance and control of the operation of nuclear munitions on fixed military bases;
  • the military bases of nuclear weapons of the Armed Forces, which stored and exploited the military stockpiles of nuclear munitions that carried out work on their preparation for combat use, carried out the timely delivery and delivery of nuclear munitions in the part of the combat use of nuclear weapons;
  • mobile bases of the Armed Forces, engaged in the preparation of nuclear munitions (bombs, engineering mines, artillery shells) for combat use - in the field;
  • military units of combat use that contained or were ready to immediately perform work on the maintenance of nuclear munitions in the highest degrees of readiness, including those docked (suspended) to the bearers of nuclear weapons.

The active increase in the types and types of troops with nuclear weapons, the increase in its number, nomenclature, and combat readiness requirements put forward issues of improving nuclear munitions to the fore. Already in the 1960s. the number of nuclear technical units directly engaged in the operation of nuclear munitions has increased significantly. The number of central nuclear weapons bases in the ten years after their transfer from the Minsredmash to the Ministry of Defense doubled.

Significant changes have been made in the military bases of nuclear weapons of the types and types of troops. In the Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN), bases were established for interaction with missile divisions of intercontinental missiles, the composition of which was increased from 3 to 4 to 10 assembly brigades (by the number of starting divisions). The assembly brigades were assigned the function of independent final preparation of nuclear munitions for combat use (in the 1950s this task was implemented jointly with the assembly brigades of the central bases).

This required an increase in the intensity of retraining of the officers of the assembly brigades of the military bases of the Missile Forces. Only in 1961 in the Training Centers of the 12 GUI, specialists were trained in 24 new types of nuclear munitions. The retraining of specialists who use nuclear weapons began to be widely practiced, directly in the military units by the instructors of the training centers sent by the teachers.

Radical upgrading of officers who operate nuclear weapons, controlling its development and production, was facilitated by the training begun by such specialists in the military academy named after I. F.E. Dzerzhinsky. The first release of specialists in nuclear weapons was carried out in 1958 by the Department of Special Equipment of the Faculty of Reactive Armament. In November 1958, this department was transferred to the Faculty of Ammunition (since 1959 - the Faculty of Combat Equipment, since 1968 - the Faculty of Special Weapons). In the 1970s. Officer cadres for 12 GU MO also began to prepare in Perm and Serpukhov, and then in Rostov Higher military command and engineering schools of the Missile Forces.

Thus, by the mid-1960s. in the 12th Main Directorate of the Ministry of Defense, a well-structured system of special training of engineering and technical personnel involved in the operation of nuclear weapons was established.

Since the early 1960's. in the tactical and technical tasks for the development of nuclear munitions began to lay requirements for their operational parameters, taking into account the operational experience. Improvement of nuclear munitions went along the way of reducing their size, improving the design, increasing reliability, increasing the expiration date, expanding the climatic conditions of operation, the transportation resource, optimizing the transfer of specialties to the highest degree of readiness, reducing the amount of work in maintenance, and ensuring safety at all stages of operation.

The growth of the nomenclature of incoming nuclear warheads led to a significant increase in the volume of design documentation. By 1960, it was from 100 to 200 items per type of special items. Operational forms were not compiled in a unified form, a large amount of accompanying documentation contained many applications.

To optimize the design documentation, the general requirements had to be reduced to a single manual. In 1960, the "General Guidelines for the Technical Operation of Specific Products" and "Guidelines for the Transport of Special Cargoes" were prepared. The standard of Minsredmash and the Ministry of Defense "Requirements for drawing up and execution of operational documentation for special products" was introduced, effective from January 1, 1962. According to the Normal, the main operational documents included: "List of operational documentation", "General instructions for the use of the product" , "Control checks of the components of the product and checking the electrical equipment of the product in the collection," "Final preparation of the product for combat use," "Operational equipment and bench equipment ". Specifically created joint commissions of the Ministry of Medium Machine Building, 12 GU MO, types of Armed Forces contributed to the improvement of the documentation.

An important component of nuclear security was the activity of military bases for the storage of nuclear weapons, control over the state of the stockpiles of nuclear munitions contained in them. The supply of nuclear munitions from the central storage bases to the Armed Forces types in peacetime was planned to be produced with the accumulation and renewal of the military stockpiles of nuclear weapons. In the threatened period or in time of war, the supply of nuclear munitions to the troops was provided for the delivery and upgrading of military stockpiles.

Improving the security issues required increasing the reliability of management and survivability of central and military storage bases, expanding their ability to deliver nuclear munitions to the troops. This required the creation of special administrative structures dealing with issues of ensuring the permanent combat readiness of nuclear weapons. It was necessary to ensure the constant readiness of delivering nuclear munitions to the troops in a timely manner, as well as their safety.

The increase in the operational and technical characteristics of nuclear munitions and their qualitative improvement made possible the operation of nuclear munitions in the conditions of the proposed tactics of action. The long-term joint activity of scientific and design organizations of Minsredmash and the Ministry of Defense made it possible to obtain such a result.

The first plan of joint work to improve the operational performance of special products for 1973-1974. was compiled in 1973. Later, commissions and working groups were established to unify the operational equipment, safe operation of nuclear munitions. In 1991, a permanent interdepartmental commission for the operation of nuclear munitions began its work.

Thanks to the joint efforts of the developers of nuclear ammunition and institutions of the 12th GU of the Ministry of Defense in the 1970s-1980s, it was possible to considerably simplify the operation of nuclear munitions in the troops, including:

  • to abolish the account of the climatic conditions of operation on the combat complex for all types of the head units of the Strategic Missile Forces and a number of nuclear munitions;
  • reduce the time for maintenance of nuclear munitions;
  • Reduce the nomenclature of instrumentation and consumables.

By the end of the 1970s. the military units of the 12 GUIs were an organization capable of carrying out nuclear provision of the types of the Armed Forces and combat arms at a high level.

By the end of the 1970s. The USSR achieved nuclear parity with the United States. The nuclear weapons complex of the USSR became able to compete with the nuclear potential of the United States and provide an adequate response to any change in the military-technical balance. By the early 1980's. The nuclear arsenals of the USSR and the United States comprised 25,000-30,000 nuclear munitions on each side.

Serious costs in the domestic and foreign policies of the country's leadership in the second half of the 1980s. initiated the beginning of the destruction of Soviet statehood.

Implementing the course of "new political thinking," Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 concluded with the US an agreement on the destruction of medium and short-range missiles, persistently pursuing a policy of reducing nuclear weapons in the world, largely due to its own nuclear-missile potential. The result of this "new" policy was the destruction of its own state, the collapse of the scientific and industrial structure, including the nuclear weapons complex. The collapse of the Soviet Union brought the United States to the rank of the world's only superpower. In December 1991, the American President congratulated his people on the victory in the "cold war".

Before the legal collapse of the Soviet Union, the Soviet military leadership managed to group tactical nuclear munitions (numbering about 30,000 units) in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

Undoubtedly, newly formed states in the post-Soviet space had the right to part of the nuclear arsenal of the former superpower. But comparing this possibility with military, economic and political expediency, not without the influence of Russia and the US, the leaders of the Republic of Belarus, the Republic of Kazakhstan and Ukraine came to a decision on giving their states the status of "non-nuclear" states and recognized the Russian Federation as the only and rightful successor to the USSR in terms of ownership nuclear weapons.

In the complex of organizational and technical measures in the handling of nuclear weapons, technical measures to ensure the safety of the operation of nuclear munitions became a priority for Russia. Particular attention was paid to the physical protection of nuclear hazardous facilities of 12 GU MO in order to prevent unauthorized penetration by unauthorized persons, as well as attempts to steal nuclear weapons. The implementation of technical means to ensure the safety of the operation of nuclear munitions was facilitated by the Russian-American commonwealth within the framework of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.

With strategic nuclear weapons, the situation was more complicated. In April 1995, nuclear munitions were exported from Kazakhstan, by June 1996 - from Ukraine and by November 1996 - from Belarus.

On April 3, 1995, two agreements were concluded between the military departments of the United States and Russia: in the field of the security of the storage of nuclear weapons and in the field of its transportation by providing material and technical means, services and appropriate training.

The US side supplied 150 super-containers for the protection of nuclear munitions from small-caliber small arms, from fires and physical protection during cargo handling, through direct access to nuclear weapons. In 1996-1997 years. With the help of the United States, the physical protection and heat resistance of 115 railway wagons for the transport of nuclear munitions were finalized. Improvement of physical protection of nuclear munitions storage sites began. For this purpose, sets of special equipment were delivered from the USA, including alarm systems, video cameras, etc.

In 1997, by order of the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, all the military bases of nuclear weapons (except the Strategic Missile Forces) were transferred to the 12 GU MO. In 2002, a number of nuclear weapons bases of the Strategic Missile Forces were also transferred to the 12 GU. Life showed the correctness of this decision.

The concentration of all forces and means of nuclear technical support under a single leadership allowed to optimize the composition of the grouping of nuclear technical troops, without reducing combat readiness, to dismantle a number of military bases of nuclear weapons, as well as a number of central nuclear weapons bases.

Prior to the beginning of the reduction and dismantlement of nuclear weapons, the number of operational nuclear munitions in service was balanced with the number of decommissioned nuclear munitions. Only the required number of nuclear munitions was in service. At the end of the warranty period, it was returned to factories where it was disassembled and disposed of. The fissile materials were sent for processing, after which they were used to make new nuclear charges. There was an established structure, cooperation of factories that assured the dismantling of old and the manufacture of new nuclear munitions. There was no need to stockpile a large number of nuclear munitions before disassembling.

With the collapse of the USSR, the situation changed. The need to eliminate and dispose of a large number of nuclear munitions created serious difficulties for the nuclear industry and for the facilities of 12 GUMO.

The priority reduction in international obligations was subject to modern nuclear weapons before the expiration of the warranty period. Older nuclear weapons, withdrawn from armament in connection with the expiration of warranty periods, Russia was forced to keep until disassembling in excess of the established time-limits for security conditions. All the storage facilities for nuclear weapons (bases) were overcrowded.

The political significance of nuclear weapons, created in the USSR in the late 1940s, has not lost its relevance to the present day. Nuclear weapons are also needed today to ensure the national security of the Fatherland. The reality is that only nuclear weapons can be guaranteed to exclude the possibility of political pressure or a military threat to our country and its allies at the global and regional level. Nuclear weapons have become a deterrent, allowing our country for a long time to live in a world without destructive and devastating wars. Containing the meaning of the existence of nuclear weapons in its non-use. Therefore, in the foreseeable future, nuclear weapons will not disappear from nuclear arsenals.

Specialists of central and military nuclear-technical bases have used tens of thousands of nuclear munitions for decades. Nuclear testers of scientific research institutes and Minsredmash enterprises (later the Russian Minatom) worked more than 50 years to create and produce nuclear weapons. During all this time, there was not a single nuclear or radiation accident. This is the main indicator of the highest professionalism and responsibility of the civilian test staff of the Ministry of Medium Machine and military personnel of the 12th Main Directorate of the Ministry of Defense.

The effective system for ensuring the safe operation of nuclear munitions, created by the nuclear weapons development enterprises of the Ministry of Medium Machine Building, is an achievement of great national importance.

Military research and scientific test organizations as well as military units engaged in the immediate operation of nuclear munitions are subordinate to 12th GUMO. Tasks related to the elimination of intermediate and shorter range missiles and the limitation of strategic nuclear arms, the elimination of nuclear munitions and increasing the safety of the remaining ones also has been assigned to the Main Directorate in recent years.

The 12th GUMO maintains large central nuclear munitions depots filled with tactical, operational/strategic, and strategic nuclear weapons withdrawn from non-Russian areas of the former Soviet Union, or otherwise taken "off-line" and redeployed. In addition to units for transporting nuclear weapons, the 12th GUMO includes a variety of research, development, and support facilities over which it has exclusive control.

The system for the protection of nuclear munitions is echeloned and generally extremely reliable. Access to them is multilayered, and it is virtually impossible for unauthorized individual to gain access to the warheads. The transport of nuclear munitions is also properly organized. Special security units are in a high state of readiness to thwart any attempt to seize them. To date there has not been a single loss from the nuclear arsenals. Potential vulnerabilities to criminal or terrorist groups are principally in the theft of nuclear weapons while in transport, which must be taken "into account in planning our actions on a day-to-day basis."

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Page last modified: 30-09-2018 17:49:29 ZULU