Tag Archives: SRBM

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.

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.

Iskander-M “Brigade Set” Delivery

Some significant news from late June and early July, largely (or entirely) overlooked by Western observers . . .

Designer Kashin Shows Shoygu the Iskander-M (photo: Mil.ru)

Designer Kashin Shows Shoygu the Iskander-M (photo: Mil.ru)

Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu presided over the first delivery of a “brigade set” of Iskander-M (SS-26 / Stone) short-range ballistic missile systems at Kapustin Yar on 28 June.

According to Mil.ru, uniformed and civilian Defense Ministry officials, industry representatives, and journalists were present for the test range ceremony.

The delivery followed the MOD’s announcement last month that Iskander-M system components will no longer be supplied separately to the army, only in “brigade sets.”  The military department also reported a “long-term” contract for deliveries of the missile system until 2017 was concluded with the producer.

A complete “brigade set” includes missiles, launchers, transport-loaders, command-staff, data processing, check-out, and maintenance vehicles, and training systems.

Missile Troops at Attention in Front of Iskander-M Launchers (photo: Mil.ru)

Missile Troops at Attention in Front of Iskander-M Launchers (photo: Mil.ru)

Shoygu reiterated that the MOD intends to reequip all ten Ground Forces missile brigades with Iskander-M before the end of 2017.  Ten brigades should deploy at least 120 missiles, not including reloads.  The Iskander-M is the only weapons system to be 100 percent procured before 2020, according to the MOD’s recently publicized Action Plan.

At Kapustin Yar, Iskander-M designer Valeriy Kashin of the Kolomna Machine-Building Design Bureau told reporters the military will receive another “brigade set” before year’s end, according to Nezavisimaya gazeta and Komsomolskaya pravda.

But completing the military’s order in less than five years could prove difficult for Russia’s defense industries.

NG reported Kashin said enterprises working on the Iskander-M have to “intensify” their activities several fold to meet the MOD deadline.  Seventeen specialized manufacturers are scheduled to upgrade and retool under a 40 billion ruble ($1.2 billion) investment effort.

However, actual reconstruction of production lines will not begin until 2014, according to online daily Vzglyad.

Shoygu told those in attendance at Kapustin Yar the most important step now is establishing the “essential infrastructure” for the deployment of new arms and equipment. He reemphasized this in a 1 July MOD videoconference by calling for special attention to synchronizing the delivery of weapons with the construction of bases and other support infrastructure where they will be deployed (and with the training of those who will operate them).

The defense minister stated that the MOD currently awaits completion of military construction projects worth 314 billion rubles ($9.7 billion). He said he wants the backlog eliminated before November.

An NVO correspondent present at Kapustin Yar reports that the just delivered Iskander-M brigade’s new facilities will be complete in September.

The newest Iskander-M brigade is likely intended for the Southern Military District, which presently only has one battalion of the new missiles. 

Shoygu is right to focus on arranging the appropriate infrastructure for Russia’s new armaments because it has traditionally neglected support and lifecycle investments in its military equipment.