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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Defense Ministry says Russian units to get Iskander on time

RIA Novosti

18/11/2008 19:22 MOSCOW, November 18 (RIA Novosti) - Iskander tactical short-range missile systems will be delivered to the Russian military on time, a senior official said on Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. Sergei Bogatinov, commander of the Missile Forces and Artillery, said there would be no problem meeting delivery schedules, dismissing recent reports that supplies could be disrupted by the ongoing credit crunch.

Kommersant daily, in particular, said the military has been hit by delays in Iskander deliveries since 2005. A training battalion in southern Russia's testing ground Kapustin Yar is the only unit armed with four Iskander systems so far. The planned brigades in Kaliningrad require 60 systems as well as other equipment.

Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport said last Wednesday that despite interest from a number of countries, including Syria, the UAE, Malaysia and India, it was not planning to export Iskander systems until Russia's Armed Forces had been fully supplied with them.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said earlier this month the country would deploy Iskander-M systems (SS-26 Stone) with a range of 500 km (311 miles) in the Kaliningrad exclave, sandwiched between NATO members Lithuania and Poland, to "neutralize if necessary" a proposed U.S. missile defense system in Central Europe.

Medvedev's move sparked a wave of criticism in Europe, while some military analysts in Russia expressed doubts over the reliability of Moscow's response to Washington's missile shield plans.

The relatively new Iskander missiles have only been subject to test firing. Although the tests were reported to have been successful, some experts believe it will be impossible to set up the five proposed Iskander brigades in Kaliningrad over the next 4-5 years due to a lack of production facilities and a workforce shortage.

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