Monthly Archives: November 2017

Iskander-M in Kaliningrad

It’s always been clear Moscow would deploy new Iskander-M SRBMs in its Baltic exclave Kaliningrad. Now it has.

Iskander-M comes to Kaliningrad

Iskander-M comes to Kaliningrad

The folks at CAST posted the news to their blog on Saturday. They were impressively attentive to the military press while yours truly remained in a slothful tryptophan-induced post-Thanksgiving stupor.

Let’s look at what CAST saw.

On November 23, KZ wrote that the next “brigade set” of Iskander-M missiles has just been handed over to a missile formation from the Western MD. The MOD paper noted that Colonel Anatoliy Gorodetskiy commands the brigade in question. That is the 152nd Missile Brigade based at Chernyakhovsk in Kaliningrad. For now, the formation is still practicing with its new equipment on the range at Kapustin Yar.

As CAST noted, this is the eleventh “brigade set” delivered to Russian ground forces.

Iskander-M SRBMs in Kaliningrad can reach targets throughout Poland, the Baltic states, even southern Sweden

Iskander-M SRBMs in Kaliningrad can reach targets throughout Poland, the Baltic states, even southern Sweden

With reported 500-km range from Kaliningrad, the Iskander-M can cover targets throughout Poland, the Baltic states, and southern Sweden. If armed with cruise missiles (SSC-8 or Russian designator 9M729), their reach is much greater. Their 2,000-km or greater range allows them to strike targets close to Paris.

Why Now? Why Not?

Iskander-M in Kaliningrad was always just a question of timing.

Since at least 2014, the Russian Army has temporarily deployed Iskander-M launchers to Kaliningrad from the “mainland” for exercises.

As CAST reported, Jane’s Defence Weekly published photographs of characteristic “tent-mobile shelters” under construction for the new SRBMs at the Chernyakhovsk base in February.

But why now? Because the missiles and associated equipment have been produced and Moscow loses nothing at this point.

The Kremlin always said it could deploy the new SRBMs to its Baltic exclave to counter Aegis BMD (Aegis Ashore) in Poland slated for completion in 2018.

There are enhanced U.S. and NATO ground deployments to Poland to assure the easternmost allies in the wake of Russia’s occupation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Perhaps relevant here is the possibility the U.S. Congress will authorize DOD development of a new U.S. intermediate-range missile to answer Russia’s material breach of the 1987 INF Treaty.

And U.S.-Russian relations are the worst since the end of the Cold War.

Next Stop Kursk

CAST adds only the 448th Missile Brigade in Kursk remains armed with the late 1980s vintage Tochka-U (SS-21 / Scarab-B) SRBM. Kursk-based Iskander-M SRBMs deployed to launch positions in southwestern Russia will easily reach Kyiv, and central and eastern Ukraine.

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What Does Modern Mean?

Is this modern?

The Russian military reports routinely on the growing proportion of “modern types of armaments, military and special equipment” entering its forces. On November 7,  Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu said:

“As a result, we have managed to increase the level of equipping troops with modern weapons by 4 times since 2012. Today it stands at 58.9 percent.”

Interviewed on October 31, MOD armaments tsar Yuriy Borisov stated that weapons and equipment in Russia’s permanent readiness units won’t be less than 60 percent modern at the end of 2017. The standing goal for GPV 2011-2020 is 70 percent.

The chief of the 46th TsNII recently gave the following percentages for modern armaments in the Russian inventory.

Percentage of Modern Weapons and Equipment

So Shoygu’s math above isn’t quite right — four times 16 is 64 rather than 58.9 percent modern weapons.

But what is modern? On Arms-expo.ru, military commentator Viktor Murakhovskiy not long ago described how the MOD categorizes its armaments.

The RF Armed Forces have five categories of weapons and equipment:

  • 1st category — New types entering the armed forces from industry which are under factory warranty and in use.
  • 2nd category — Serviceable types in use.
  • 3rd category — Types requiring some kind of repair.
  • 4th category — Types requiring capital repair.
  • 5th category — Types to be decommissioned.

Murakhovskiy turns to the RF standards agency to define modern armament:

Modern armaments are defined by state standard (GOST RV 51540-2005, Military Equipment, Terms and Definitions) — modern means a type of armament which is not inferior or superior to the best analogous foreign types in its combat, technical, and usage characteristics, or does not have foreign analogues.

All of which makes timely this little expounding on a point. New doesn’t always mean modern. There is new production of old designs. But by the same token one shouldn’t doubt that old weapons can be just as lethal and effective in combat as new ones in the right tactical situation.

With the long life cycles of today’s military technology, the distinction between new and modern will remain murky.

Take Russia’s Pantsir-S gun-missile air defense system. It was designed in the late 1980s and early 1990s to replace Tunguska from the 1970s. Because of Russia’s various troubles, Pantsir-S wasn’t produced until the late 2000s, and entered service by 2012. Obviously new but how modern? Now it’s slated for modernization by 2019. The Pantsir-SM is supposed to feature increased detection and engagement range with a new missile.

OSK Cries Poor on Knyaz Oleg

A Borey-class SSBN (photo Sevmash Press-Service)

A Borey-class SSBN (photo: Sevmash Press-Service)

Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC or OSK) is reportedly experiencing a shortage of funding for Borey-class SSBN Knyaz Oleg. OSK President Aleksey Rakhmanov told RIA Novosti on November 16, “Everything depends on issues of the shortage of financing which has somehow formed for us. We hope that [the launch of Knyaz Oleg] will be on schedule.”

Rakhmanov reportedly told the official news agency that the schedule for launching Knyaz Oleg has been pushed back several times.

Knyaz Oleg is the fifth Borey SSBN overall, and the second Borey-A boat. Like the first three Borey ballistic missile submarines, the Borey-A is expected to carry 16 Bulava SLBMs.

First-of-class Yuriy Dolgorukiy is assigned to the Northern Fleet. Aleksandr Nevskiy and Vladimir Monomakh are part of the Pacific Fleet.

Like Knyaz Oleg, unit four — Knyaz Vladimir — the first Borey-A is also destined to reinforce the Russian Pacific Fleet’s strategic nuclear force.

Rakhmanov’s public cry for more money is somewhat unusual and harks back to 2011 when OSK railed at the MOD for adequate financing to produce modern nuclear submarines.

Russia planned to have eight Borey boats in its order-of-battle by 2020. But with Sevmash taking six, seven, or eight years to lay down, launch, and commission them, Knyaz Oleg might be the last to reach the navy this decade. And Rakhmanov pretty clearly linked money to sticking to his SSBN production schedule.