9K720 Iskander-M (SS-26 Stone)
Iskander is designed for tactical strikes on small, high value land targets. The export variant has a range of 280 km, compliant with the 300 km limit of the Missitle Technology Control Regime, but the variant in Russian service has a range of 500 km, similar to that of the SS-23 Spider which was destroyed under the INF treaty.
Moscow reiterated on 24 April 2012 it may deploy Iskander theater ballistic missiles in the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad that will be capable of effectively engaging elements of the U.S. missile defense system in Poland. The missile defense system in Poland does not jeopardize Russia’s nuclear forces, Army General Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, said. “However, if it is modernized…it could affect our nuclear capability and in that case a political decision may be made to deploy Iskander systems in the Kaliningrad region,” he said in an interview with RT television.
In 2011, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced plans to deploy Iskander missiles in Russia’s westernmost Kaliningrad Region, to counter the threat posed by US plans to deploy missile defense elements in Europe. Medvedev said on 05 November 2008 that Russia would deploy short-range Iskander missile systems in its Kaliningrad exclave near Poland "to neutralize, if necessary, the anti-ballistic missile system in Europe."
"I would add something about what we have had to face in recent years: what is it? It is the construction of a global missile defence system, the installation of military bases around Russia, the unbridled expansion of NATO and other similar 'presents' for Russia we therefore have every reason to believe that they are simply testing our strength. Of course we will not let ourselves be dragged into an arms race. But we must take this into account in defence expenditures. And we will continue to reliably protect the safety of the citizens of Russia. Therefore I will now announce some of the measures that will be taken. In particular measures to effectively counter the persistent and consistent attempts of the current American administration to install new elements of a global missile defence system in Europe. For example, we had planned to decommission three missile regiments of a missile division deployed in Kozelsk from combat readiness and to disband the division by 2010. I have decided to abstain from these plans. Nothing will disband. Moreover, we will deploy the Iskander missile system in the Kaliningrad Region to be able, if necessary, to neutralise the missile defence system. Naturally, we envisage using the resources of the Russian Navy for these purposes as well. And finally, electronic jamming of the new installations of the U.S. missile defence system will be carried out from the territory of the same westernmost region, that is from Kaliningrad. I want to emphasise that we have been forced to take these measures. We have repeatedly told our partners that we want to engage in positive cooperation. We want to act against common threats and to work together. But unfortunately, very unfortunately, they did not want to listen to us."
On 05 November 2008 Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Moscow-based Military Forecast Center, told RIA Novosti that the deployment of Iskander systems with a range of 500 km (310 miles) would allow Russia to target the entire territory of Poland and also parts of Germany and the Czech Republic. The 152nd Independent Missile Brigade deployed outside Chernyakhovsk, Kaliningrad Region, was planned to be re-armed with Iskanders as early as the beginning of 2008.
The 9K720 Iskander-M (SS-26 Stone) would certainly have a range to strike the Redzikowo missile defense facility in Poland, which is a bit more than 200 km from Kaliningrad. But only an extended range version would be capable of striking the Brdy facility in the Czech Republic, which is more than 600 km from Kaliningrad.
The road-mobile SS-X-26 was the second attempt to replace the `Scud', since the first attempt, the Oka SS-23 SPIDER, was eliminated under the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. The operational requirements for the SS-26 are probably similar to those of the original SS-23. One of the major questions concerning the program is the missile's range. The SS-26 may include a longer range (greater than 400 km) variant for the Russian forces, and a shorter range (less than 300 km) variant for export.
The deployment of the new Iskander tactical missile systems closes a missile coverage gap caused by Russia's participation in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The Iskander-M (NATO reporting name SS-26 Stone) missile system, considered a successor to the Oka, has a range of at least 400 km (250 miles) and can reportedly carry conventional and nuclear warheads.
The Soviet Union and the U.S. signed the INF Treaty on 08 December 1987. The agreement came into force in June 1988 and was of indefinite duration. The pact banned nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (300 to 3,400 miles). The fundamental purpose of the INF Treaty was to eliminate and ban US and former USSR (FSU) ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as associated support equipment, with ranges between 500 and 5500 kilometers. By the treaty's deadline of 01 June 1991, a total of 2,692 weapons had been destroyed, 846 by the U.S. and 1,846 by the Soviet Union. These included the Soviet RSD-10 Pioneer (NATO reporting name SS-20 SABER, with a range of 600 to 5000 kilometers) with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) missiles, as well as the single-warhead Pershing II systems.
The Soviet short-range tactical missile system (NATO reporting SS-23 Spider, with a range of 500 kilometers), was also destroyed under the INF treaty. Recent Russian claims that the SS-23 " ... technically did not fall into the category of missile systems slated for scrapping, since the maximum range of its missile did not exceed 450 km (280 miles)" or that "Nonetheless, the Americans insisted that the Oka be included on the list of systems subject to elimination" are entirely without merit, having no basis in fact or history.
The SS-26 missile is superior to its predecessor, the Oka. The launch carrier vehicle carries two missiles, rather than one. And each missile can be independently targeted, in a matter of seconds. The missiles can be retargeted during flight not only against fixed targets, but also against moving targets, such as a tactical missile launcher, a tank column, or a convoy. The Iskander has another unique feature: the optically guided warhead can also be controlled by a coded radio signal, including from an AWACS or an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). This provides a self-homing capability. The missile's onboard computer receives an image or images of the target. Then the missile, by locking on the target with its sights, will travel towards it at supersonic speed.
The system can be used against small and large targets. The Iskander missile can easily overcome air defense systems. It's almost impossible to prevent a launch of an Iskander missile because of the system's mobility. Targets can be found not only by satellite and aircraft but also by a conventional intelligence center and by a soldier who directs artillery fire. Targets can also be found from photos, which will be put into a computer by means of a scanner. The self-direction device functions even in fog or darkness. Only the Iskander system can accomplish such tasks.
According to Nikolay Guschin, chief and senior designer of the Machinebuilding Design Office, the complex is meant for covertly preparing and launching effective missile strikes at small-size targets of particular importance. A specificity of this complex is the high level of automation in the pre-launch preparations little time required to make it ready, and the high precision of shooting.
Research carried out by specialists from the leading Russian military science centers is claimed to have shown that the lskander-E missile complex is 5 to 8 times better than its foreign analogs in terms of the "effectiveness-cost" criterion. As for its tactical and technical characteristics, it also poses a great improvement on the existing Russian tactical missile complexes. Capable of accomplishing tasks connected with the use of non-nuclear warheads, it's the world's first complex equipped with two-missile launch installation. Weighing 3800 kilograms each, controlled throughout the trajectory of their flight, equipped with various systems of correction and self-targeting, its missiles are capable of overcoming the enemy's anti-missile defences and hitting targets at a distance of 280 kilometers.
The TEL was likely based on the new BAZ-6909 family of trucks, first publicly displayed at a commercial transport show in Moscow in August 1995. Two missiles are carried on each launcher, though the delay between firing each round is unclear. The new TEL is apparently based on the the 9P71 Oka TEL, though the new SS-X-26 TEL has been designed with the INF Treaty in mind, with several external changes that clearly differentiate the two vehicles to prevent treaty compliance problems. The nose of the vehicle has been extended forward, the chassis lengthened, and the access door arrangement has been changes. The tactical parameters of the two vehicles are probably similar.
The composition of the complex makes it possible to ensure the full cycle of its use in combat, including its combat control, information base, technical servicing and the training of its crews, without the involvement of additional remedies.
The first Iskander tactical surface-to-surface ballistic missile system has entered service with the Russian Army's Western Military District, regional commander Arkady Bakhin said on 14 December 2010. "We are at practically 98 percent permanent readiness. We are carrying out reequipment and delivery of new types of weapons," Bakhin said. Iskander-M ballistic missile systems, which can effectively engage two targets within a minute at a range of up to 280 kilometers, will be provided to all Russian Ground Forces missile brigades by 2018, the country’s defense minister said 28 June 2013. The missiles have a non-ballistic flight path that is difficult for the enemy to predict and are guided throughout their flight. A missile brigade in southern Russia’s Astrakhan Region received an advanced Iskander-M missile complex.
Russia's defense industry announced in late 2015 the creation of a new missile. According to military expert Igor Korotchenko, the announcement was careful to conceal the new missile's specifications. Russia's new missile for the Iskander-M launcher, said to have been completed on Friday, has some secret characteristics, weapons expert Igor Korotchenko told Sputnik. "The Ministry of Defense and the industrial enterprises are not disclosing the tactical and technical characteristics. This is so that a potential opponent would not take counter-measures," Korotchenko said.
According to Korotchenko, the two main factors behind the development of a new missile are the precision of the strike and the ability to maneuver against anti-air and anti-missile defenses. "Because of this, the new ballistic missile, now part of the Iskander-M system, will allow the completion of tasks before the systems, but much more effectively and invulnerable to the opponent," he added.
Korotchenko added that the Iskander-M missile system may be armed with both ballistic and cruise missiles, which allows for a flexible approach when it comes to destroying targets. The head of Russia's Missile Forces Aleksandr Dragovalovsky previously said that the country's defense industry is developing four ballistic and one cruise missile for the Iskander-M system. The first ever night-time test of the system was made in November 2015.
Responding to the threat posed by US cruise missiles, which could be launched from sites in Eastern Europe, Russia will be forced to deploy its own ballistic missiles in its westernmost region, the head of the Russian Senate Defense Committee warned 21 November 2016. “One of the reasons why Russia opposed the deployment of the American ABM [anti-ballistic missile] system in Europe was the concern that this infrastructure may be quickly converted to deploy strike systems, in particular land-based cruise missiles. These concerns are being confirmed today,” Senator Viktor Ozerov, who chairs the upper house’s Defense and Security Committee.
The Russian lawmaker was referring to interceptor missile launchers deployed in Poland and Romania, which Washington insists are needed to protect Europe from a rocket attack. The vertical-launch systems are the same used on American missile cruisers to fire Tomahawk missiles. The US and Russia are both banned from having or even developing ground-based missiles with the range similar to Tomahawks by the INF Treaty signed in the late 1980s. But naval missiles are not subject to the document. Moscow says that in the event of a crisis, the US may use the ABM sites to fire Tomahawks at Russian territory.
“In response to that we will be forced to beef up our air and space defense system in that direction, deploy additional forces to defend our military facilities and command centers. This includes the deployment of S-400 and Iskander systems in Kaliningrad, and the formation of new units in the Western and Southern military districts. In addition to mechanized and tank components those divisions would have units dedicated to air and space defense,” Ozerov said.
The S-400 is a long-range anti-missile system used to protect strategic sites like large cities or ICBM silos from airstrikes. The Iskander is a tactical missile system capable of firing either ballistic or cruise missiles, including those carrying nuclear warheads. The Iskander system’s range is enough to reach the controversial US ABM sites.
Several new missile types have been developed for Russia’s cutting-edge Iskander-M tactical ballistic missile complex according to its chief designer. The Defense Ministry has considered adopting the new missiles to enhance the system. While the Army currently operates the missiles (approved in 2011), the development continues and the complex “constantly evolves,” Valeriy Kashin, chief designer of the Konstruktorskoye Byuro Mashynostroyeniya research and production corporation told reporters 14 September 2017. “A number of missile types have been designed, they do not differ in appearance. It currently has at least seven variants of missiles,” Kashin, celebrating his 70th birthday, said.
Apart from the hardware, the complex, will get a new control system and new software compatible with the new missiles, the chief designer added. The Ministry of Defense has “generally supported” the development of the new munitions, but the project is still developing. “We’ve prepared propositions for the further development of the Iskander-M complex and introduced them to the Defense Ministry. They have received general support, but currently undergo the stage of registration and approval,” Kashin stated.
In May 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry announced plans to enhance the accuracy and capabilities of Iskander-M with the new missile types. “[Iskander] is a true gem of our Land Forces, it has the characteristics fitting marginally into the restrictions imposed by the treaties on mid-range missiles usage,” Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said.
The Iskander missile platform was used by the Russian Army in two variants – the Iskander-M tactical ballistic missile complex and the Iskander-K cruise missile platform. While the complexes share the same launch platform, it has different operational capabilities. Iskander-M is capable of high precision strikes at a 500-km range and is to replace the aging Tochka-U tactical missiles. While the complex has various conventional warhead types, it can also carry nuclear ones.
Iskanders are normally deployed in brigades, of which by 2019 there was one at Chernyakhovks in Kaliningrad and one at Luga, south-west of St Petersburg. A missile brigade is made up of three battalions, each of which has eight missiles on launch trucks and as many again on reload vehicles. A brigade thus has 24 ready missiles that can be fired in a salvo, and 24 reloads that can be fired 30–60 minutes later. Iskander-M is replacing the 1970s-vintage SS-21 Tochka in Russian missile brigades. It has been in service with the Russian Armed Forces since 2006 and was first used in the war against Georgia, albeit with mixed results.
Air Launched SS-26?
The 9M730 Knizhal - Dagger / Product 75 air-launched hypersonic missile system was unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 1. The Russian leader said the Kinzhal had an operating range of over 2,000 km. The MiG-31K fighter jet is the basic carrier of Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. The MiG-31 has a length of 70 feet, 5 inches (21.5 meters), while the Iskander / SS-26 is 7.2 meters long. These dimensions correspond very nicely to the released imagery. The video released on 12 March 2018 shows the release of the missile from the MiG-21 and the ignition after a drop of many hundreds of feet. The exhaust of the missile is quite smokey, consistent with the solid propellant of the Iskander, but inconsistent with the essential claim of the Dagger system, that the high-speed MiG-31 is used as an accelerator for a hypersonic air-breathing missile.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|