It seems that:

Though I can see there being differences between maintenance and employment of nuclear weapons, I just see so much overlap between the two. Wouldn't it make more sense to have just one single organization?

Also, why is the organization tasked with maintaining the weapons more secretive than the one tasked with actually using them?

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    This doesn't appear to have much of a historical aspect to it. Current Russian military organisation might have its origins in the Soviet Union but why it's as it is right now is probably off-topic on this site.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 9:29
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    Your first and last paragraph conflict in which one of the two organizations is touted as "more secred". Also, maintining / protecting nuclear weapons is nuclear physics and maintenance of warheads. Deployment is (literally) rocket physics. The deliverance system has nothing to do with the payload, really. Oversimplified, the SRF get the payload to the target and then close some circuit. Whether it's a nuke that goes boom or some chemical explosive, they couldn't care less.
    – DevSolar
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 9:53
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    @RodrigodeAzevedo I modified the order of the bullet points to suit what I meant
    – David Cian
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 13:43
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    Agreeing with @SteveBird. One good way to tell that a question is not a history question is if none of the verbs used in the question sentences are past tense. There isn't even a single past-tense verb in this entire question.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 13:45
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    @RodrigodeAzevedo As a Russian speaker, I understand this to mean "after the bombs fall, there is silence", not as an indication of their secretiveness, though the nuance is subtle and I might be wrong
    – David Cian
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 14:04

1 Answer 1


12th Chief Directorate originated from the Main Directorate of special weaponry of USSR MoD. This organisation was created in 1947 to coordinate R&D, production and storage of nuclear weapons and to develop guidelines on their usage (and on defensive measures against similar enemy weapons). As a result, by 1951, when training started for actual military personnel who would be using the nukes (the Soviet Air Force), the Main Directorate of special weaponry already had a sizeable infrastructure dedicated to transport, storage and maintenance of the weapons - note that these storage sites were also responsible for the final assembly of nukes.

In addition to storage bases, in their R&D capacity, the Main Directorate was responsible for operating the testing grounds and nuclear detonation detection facilities. When SORT treaties were made, they also were charged with operating decommissioning facilites, too. They are still responsible for long-range nuclear detonation detection laboratories (and control over international treaties implementation, but I guess these guys don't have too much work on their hands these days).

This gave the organisation a very particular skillset. They basically control the most of Russian nuclear weapons' lifecycle (which is why they are so secretive); RVSN (and other potential users) only receive fully ready warheads, they are responsible for putting them on delivery systems and priming, but nothing else - they used to have some storage bases, giving them that overlap you mentioned, but these were transferred to the 12th Directorate when it was formed.

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    Do you agree with my edits? Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 12:46
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    A comprehensive answer, but sources would improve it
    – SPavel
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 13:44

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