Tag Archives: Iskander-M

Anti-Ship Iskander-M?

Russia may view the Iskander-M as an effective weapon against high-value ships and aircraft carriers in particular. There is, however, no openly available information indicating the Russians have actually tested it as an anti-ship ballistic missile.

In late July and early August, the Russian Army conducted two exercises for the first time featuring notional launches of the land-based mobile 9K720 Iskander-M (SS-26 ‘Stone’) short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) against ships in the Black Sea. Reports on the drills appeared on Mil.ru and government-controlled newspaper Rossiyskaya gazeta.

The 1st Missile Brigade of the Krasnodar-based 49th Combined Arms Army departed garrison in late July for combat readiness drills under the personal control of Southern Military District commander Colonel General Aleksandr Dvornikov. The brigade performed the Iskander-M launch drills at some point before they were reported on July 27 and August 2 respectively.

The MOD press-releases stated that the Russian forces “delivered an electronic missile strike on notional enemy ships and shore facilities” and conducted “electronic launches on notional enemy targets detected in the Black Sea and ashore.”

An “electronic” launch likely means a field combat simulation where the missile unit prepares and performs all procedures for a real-world launch without firing a live missile.

Exactly which ships the Russians used as notional targets for the Iskander-M is unknown. However, the annual NATO Sea Breeze exercise took place in Black Sea waters during mid-July. Forces from 13 alliance members as well as Georgia, Moldova, Sweden, and Ukraine participated in the multinational training. Tensions between Russia and Ukraine remain high since Moscow seized Crimea and sent forces to fight in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

The Iskander-M has the capability to attack moving targets including ships. Its 9M723 missile flies a low, semi-ballistic trajectory at Mach 6-7 with possible maneuvering in the terminal flight stage. It has inertial navigation as well as active radar or electro-optical terminal guidance. Active radar would be employed against ships at sea. However, a successful SRBM strike on a moving naval target would likely also depend on real-time inputs and updates from space-based surveillance and intelligence systems.

The deployment of the Iskander-M as a possible anti-ship system comes just months after Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile. The Kinzhal uses a modified Iskander-M missile and has also been advertised as an anti-ship weapon and “carrier killer.”

Compared to the relatively long-range Kinzhal, the 500-km declared range of the Iskander-M makes it less threatening to foreign aircraft carriers and battle groups which could remain outside its reach. However, combined with existing sea- and land-based anti-ship cruise missile systems, Iskander-M’s hypersonic speed would be a major contribution to Russia’s robust anti-access/area denial strategy on the approaches to its four fleet areas.

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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.

Future Firepower

In this slow news season, Russia’s chief artilleryman has provided something to keep us going.  

The missile and artillery firepower of Russian Ground Troops could double in the near future.  New Iskander-M brigades are likely to be fielded through 2020. 

general-lieutenant-matveyevskiy

General-Lieutenant Matveyevskiy

Today General-Lieutenant Mikhail Matveyevskiy told RIA Novosti that the “combat possibilities” of Missile Troops and Artillery (RViA or  РВиА) will increase by a factor of 1.5 to two by 2021.  He said Russia will establish and equip new missile and artillery “formations and units” (i.e. divisions, brigades, regiments).

Matveyevskiy also told the news agency:

“In 2016, the development of the new generation Tornado-S multiple launch rocket system with increased range, accuracy, and more powerful warheads was completed. Volley fire Tornado-G systems, with automated target direction capability, continued to enter MLRS sub-units [i.e. battalions, batteries].  Anti-tank sub-units are outfitted with new Khizantema-S anti-tank guided missile systems with a unique capability to penetrate the armor of all modern tanks at night and in low visibility conditions.”

General-Lieutenant Matveyevskiy indicated that the rearming of missile brigades with Iskander-M SRBMs is “proceeding on a planned basis,” and deliveries are synchronized with the construction of facilities to support their deployment.

According to a January 4 Mil.ru press-release, Matveyevskiy said “by 2020 all existing formations will be fully rearmed with the Iskander-M missile system.” This item also noted that defense enterprises are currently working on improvements to the Iskander-M as well as a unified trainer for crew commanders, drivers, and other specialists.

Through last year, nine missile brigades have received the Iskander-M.  The 448th and 152nd are likely candidates to be ten and eleven in 2017.  The rejuvenated 1st Tank Army and a new army in the Southern MD might be twelve and thirteen at some point. And that still leaves the possibility of fielding four more Iskander-M brigades (numbers 14-17) before the end of 2020 if the current pace of two per year continues.

By way of reference and comparison, the Soviet Army had roughly 40 SRBM brigades at one point or another.

Iskander’s Reach

Earlier this month, the Russian Ground Troops took  delivery of their ninth brigade set of Iskander-M missiles (NATO designation SS-26 / Stone).  The new brigade will deploy east of Yekaterinburg at Yelanskiy in Russia’s Central MD.

Iskander-M TELs Delivered at Kapustin Yar (photo KBM).JPG

Iskander-M TELs

Each brigade set has 51 vehicles — 12 TELs, 12 reload vehicles, 11 command vehicles, 14 personnel support vehicles, one data preparation vehicle, and one service and repair vehicle.  So a brigade can load out 48 Iskander-M missiles.  Additional reloads may come out of the brigade’s missile storage facility.

A brigade has three battalions, each with two batteries of two launchers.

The first Iskander-M missiles deployed with the 630th Independent Missile Battalion between 2005 and 2007.  They were operationally tested with this unit which falls under the 60th Combat Employment Training Center for Missile Troops and Artillery of the Ground Troops at Kapustin Yar.

After some piecemeal deployments, Moscow got serious about Iskander-M production, investing in production capability at Votkinsk and its suppliers, and signing a contract to equip ten brigades before the end of 2017.  The MOD’s 2013 “Action Plan” through 2020 indicated that Iskander-M would be the only new weapon system to replace its predecessor completely during that time frame.

iskander-m-deployments

Iskander-M Deployments

The MOD may plan to go above ten brigades of Iskander-M given that the Ground Troops’ structure is expanding at the army level.  The existing 152nd Missile Brigade at Chernyakhovsk in Kaliningrad (part of Baltic Fleet forces) and the 448th Missile Brigade at Kursk (20th CAA) also remain to be upgraded to Iskander-M.

iskander-m-brigades-in-western-russia

Iskander-M Brigades in Western Russia

Even without leaving garrison, Iskander-M missiles in Western Russia can reach southern Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, northern Belarus, southeastern Ukraine, Crimea, northeastern Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan with their 500-km range. Iskander-M in Kaliningrad allows coverage of targets in southern Sweden, Poland, northwestern Ukraine, and most of Belarus.  Add a brigade at Kursk and Russian missiles cover most of Ukraine including Kyiv.

iskander-m-brigades-in-eastern-russia

Iskander-M Brigades in Eastern Russia

Iskander-M missiles in Russia’s Far East can reach targets in China’s new Northern Theater Command north of Beijing.

But the real reach of Iskander-M depends on the missile loaded on its launcher…is it the 9M723 ballistic missile with reported 500-km range or is it the 9M728 cruise missile also with reported (but more difficult to believe) 500-km range.  The latter has come to be known as Iskander-K. 

This missile is also known as the R-500 and it may be part of the Kalibr family.  If true, it may have 2,000-km or greater range — breaking the INF Treaty’s prohibition on ground-launched cruise missiles with ranges between 500- and 5,500-km.

Iskander-K is likely already present in the first four or five brigades armed with Iskander-M.

It’s a game-changer.  Fired from near Luga, this missile covers all of Western Europe, perhaps falling shy of Paris.  In the Far East, one from Birobidzhan covers all of northern China and easily reaches Beijing.

Third Iskander-M Brigade in Far East

The Eastern Military District’s third brigade of Iskander-M SRBMs is set to deploy to its base after initial training on the range in Astrakhan Oblast.  Interfaks-AVN and RIA Novosti covered the story yesterday.

The recipient is the Ussuriysk-based 5th Combined Arms Army’s 20th Missile Brigade at Spassk-Dalniy, Primorskiy Kray.

The first Iskander-M brigade in the Far East was the 35th Army’s 107th Missile Brigade in Birobidzhan in 2013.  The 36th Army’s 103rd Missile Brigade in Ulan-Ude got the Iskander-M last December.

The Russian Defense Ministry has said it intends to field two brigades of Iskander-M missiles each year until it replaces older Tochka / Tochka-U SRBMs.

Shaltay Boltay, Missile and Boomer Bases

Shaltay Boltay

Shaltay Boltay

Computer security, whistleblowers, hacks, compromises, and leaks have arrived on these pages.  Not through technical interest, but because of information that’s become available.  But more preface is required.

Russia watchers aren’t sure who’s behind Anonymous International.

Are they computer genius anti-Putin “hacktivists” stealing Kremlin emails and documents, auctioning off some and publicizing others?  Or are they a small, relatively liberal Kremlin faction (or just a few people) leaking information to benefit themselves politically?  Take your choice of analyses (here, here, and here).

They take their noms de plume from Alice in Wonderland.   Shaltay Boltay — Шалтай Болтай (Humpty Dumpty) — is the group’s voice.

The group is famous for hacking and spoofing Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev’s Twitter account, and for revealing the Kremlin’s hired trolls at work on Western web sites.  But the group’s latest information is of interest here.

Anonymous International addresses the Chief of the FSB’s Military Counterintelligence Department, General Colonel Aleksandr Bezverkhniy in mock indignation over Defense Ministry emails it obtained.  They reportedly came from the secretary of the former MOD Construction Department Director, Roman Filamonov.

Anonymous International calls the MOD’s information security organs “criminally negligent.”  It claims it used Yandex.ru, Mail.ru, and Gmail.com to obtain “service” (FOUO) documents sometimes containing secret data on Russia’s defense capabilities.  Reports on meetings with the Defense Minister and his deputies were allegedly transmitted via easily accessible open email.  The group says Filamonov’s secretary put her username and password for the MOD’s official email server in her electronic files.

Anonymous International asks Bezverkhniy to address the cavalier attitude toward information security among former and current MOD officials.  But everything mentioned is just an excerpt.  The group says it will sell a copy of its complete four-year collection of files from Filamonov’s secretary to the FSB for half price.

B0ltai.org appended a July 2014 report detailing Spetsstroy work on seven bases for Iskander-M SRBMs, supposed to be done that month.  The 7-billion-ruble contract to prepare these installations for the Iskander-M centered primarily on erecting 56 “tent-mobile shelters.”

But only 21 were completed on schedule — in Luga (26 рбр, 6А, ЗВО), Molkino (1 рбр, 49А, ЮВО), and Birobidzhan (107 рбр, 35А, ВВО).  Others — in Mozdok (probably a battalion’s worth), Znamensk, and Totskoye-2 — were experiencing significant delays in design or construction.  One in Shuya was not due for completion until February of this year.  It’s likely four more bases will be outfitted under some future contract.

This information from Filamonov’s secretary’s email is not particularly revelatory.  The missile brigades are well-known.  But it’s embarrassing that only one-third of this work was finished on time, despite the priority given Iskander-M.  Recall this program is supposed to be 100 percent  procured by 2017.  Additional money will probably be needed to bring the effort back on schedule.

Anonymous International also posted a slightly redacted report on construction, or reconstruction, of 12 Pacific Fleet submarine facilities near Vilyuchinsk to support the basing and operations of proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBNs.  It vaguely outlines a three-phase plan to complete this work in 2014, 2015, and 2017.

Vilyuchinsk and Rybachiy

Vilyuchinsk and Rybachiy

The report refers without specifics to work on mooring areas, shore power, dredging, and 12th GU MO nuclear warhead storage buildings.  In the second phase, it mentions completing a 100-ton crane, missile and weapons handling areas, storage buildings, roads, service housing, and “social infrastructure.” Finally, the report describes “full completion of the Pacific Fleet submarine base” including pier, administrative, vehicle, missile, and weapons storage areas, and roads as well as the “full development” of the energy and water supply for nearby residential areas.

The report is a year old, but depicts a base not quite ready for new fourth generation SSBNs.  Apparently, Aleksandr Nevskiy (K-550) is coming anyway.  Three more Boreys will follow while work at Vilyuchinsk and Rybachiy continues.  As noted previously, the issue of maintaining Russia’s naval strategic nuclear force in the Pacific has been long and painful for the MOD and for the Glavk personally.

Visit to the 26th Missile Brigade

Mil.ru provided quite a few good pictures of the new base of the Russian Army’s 26th Missile Brigade at Luga in the Western MD.  They were taken during Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s recent inspection trip.

Shoygu with Western MD Commander General-Colonel Anatoliy Sidorov (photo: Mil.ru)

Shoygu with Western MD Commander General-Colonel Anatoliy Sidorov (photo: Mil.ru)

Yes, what follows is ripped-off photo journalism, but the pictures are too good to pass up.

Iskander-K Cruise Missile Canister Being Transloaded (photo: Mil.ru)

Iskander-K Cruise Missile Canister Being Transloaded (photo: Mil.ru)

Iskander-M Ballistic Missile Being Transloaded (photo: Mil.ru)

Iskander-M Ballistic Missile Being Transloaded (photo: Mil.ru)

The Brigade's "Tent-Mobile Shelters" (photo: Mil.ru)

The Brigade’s “Tent-Mobile Shelters” (photo: Mil.ru)

The army erected what are termed “tent-mobile shelters” at the missile brigade’s obviously new base.

"Tent-Mobile Shelters"(photo: Mil.ru)

“Tent-Mobile Shelters”(photo: Mil.ru)

Shoygu Points Something Out, Colonel on Right Likely the Brigade's Commander (photo: Mil.ru)

Shoygu Points Something Out, Colonel on Right Likely the Brigade’s Commander (photo: Mil.ru)

Fuel Hoses Hang Inside the "Tent-Mobile Shelter" (photo: Mil.ru)

Fuel Hoses Hang Inside the “Tent-Mobile Shelter” (photo: Mil.ru)

A Last Chat Inside the "Tent-Mobile Shelter"(photo: Mil.ru)

A Last Chat Inside the “Tent-Mobile Shelter”(photo: Mil.ru)

Shoygu wanted to see that his orders to build essential basing facilities for new arms and equipment are being followed.  The 26th brigade not too long ago received its Iskanders.  Mil.ru noted that the brigade’s vehicle storage area has space for 200 pieces of equipment including the Iskanders.

The defense minister noted that “tent-mobile shelters” also need to be heated, so the missile launchers are always ready.  One wonders, of course, how they’ll hold up against heavy snow, ice, etc.

Shoygu repeated familiar words about synchronizing the arrival of new systems like Iskander with the selection of contractees to operate them.

He checked on the construction of concrete weapons bunkers, but nothing of this is shown or shared.