Posts Tagged ‘ICBM’

CCCP ICBM Launch Site

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

It was going to be hard to top our day trip to Chernobyl and Pripyat, so our second day in the Ukraine would have to be something special.  Fortunately, we had just the thing in store: a day in Pervomaysk at the Museum of Strategic Missile Troops.  The last remaining (though obviously non-working) ICBM launch site in the Ukraine.

The logo of the missile silo.

Arriving after a 3 hour journey from Kiev, the museum is a fairly non-descript building in the middle of some farm land.  Surrounded by corn a wheat fields, it’s hard to imagine that 25 years ago this exact site was what kept me up at night worrying about the nuclear end of the world (I spent a surprising amount of time concerned with my own mortality as a 9 year old).

We sat down briefly to watch a video about the site and various other CCCP methods of nuclear missile deployment, but as everything was being translated from Russian to English for us by our Ukrainian guide it was painfully slow.  Fortunately, it was interrupted 10 minutes in (which took 25 minutes) as our tour was about to start.

We were given a short tour of the museum and told about the various missiles that were stored at this location as well as the 5 other neighbouring sites.  The volume of potential destruction out here in the middle of nowhere was staggering and it’s easy to see why nobody wanted to “shoot first”.

The tour was interesting enough but as everything was in Russian it was difficult to glean much beyond what was being translated for us.  Photos, diagrams and mock ups of nuclear missiles are fascinating when the real thing isn’t right outside so we were eager to get through and on with it.

Outside there were bits and pieces of old missiles including the shot above of the SATAN missile.  This was their largest missile available at the height of the cold war, each one capable of rendering 300 square kilometers uninhabitable.  Our guide told us that at peak, there were over 2000 of these in the Russian stockpile.

From there, we made our way through the core of the complex to the silos themselves.  Protected by rows of electrified wire, several anti-personal vehicles and a turret mounted (50cal?) machine gun, the silo has been all but filled in with concrete in accordance with whatever treaties were signed to decommission them.

Our guide then took us through a series of long, underground tunnels to the entrance of the command module.  Passing beyond a pair of one tonne steel doors, five of us crammed into an elevator built for two and made the slow journey 12 stories down to the base of the command module.  It was here that, should the orders be received, a pair of officers would simultaneously turn their keys and press their buttons.

Definitely a worthy day trip, though our guide wasn’t the most jovial of sorts.  In my mind I pictured him as someone who longed for the glory days of mother Russia and was sick to death of showing foreign tourists the might that was, taking pictures and making jokes about his precious military heritage.  It could just be that he missed out on his morning coffee however.

A couple more shots are in the gallery here.