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

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

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 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.

10 responses to “Iskander’s Reach

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  2. Actually the Iskander-K is a very large tube… it is very possible that it might be an evolution of the Kh-101/102 which is reported to have a range of between 5,000km and 7,000km.

    I have seen claims of up to 10,000km but lets assume they went for 6,000km that would mean the INF treaty does not apply.

    Of course the ABM launchers in eastern europe using Mk-41 launchers already violate the INF treaty anyway as they are tomahawk compatible.

    The INF treaty is a mess… an armed HALE UCAV should qualify as a violation of the INF treaty too… otherwise they can simply claim the Iskander-K is a UCAV.

  3. Only those with NTMs may know Iskander-K’s actual range, but it wouldn’t make sense for it to have short legs. It makes sense for it to reach a different target set than Iskander-M’s ballistic missiles.

    As for INF, it is a mess. Like every treaty, it’s a political agreement lasting only as long as the intersection of national interests which made it possible in the first place. It’s also hostage to the circumstances of its creation.

    Gorbachev wanted a treaty to show his good will and possibly save some rubles on his military. The U.S. thought the time opportune to get a deal to reduce Soviet capabilities and still develop capabilities in areas not limited by the treaty.

    Obviously, many Soviets / Russians felt they got the short end of the stick and have been eager for INF’s death ever since. NATO enlargement and U.S. departure from the ABM Treaty only confirmed their feelings. Pushing Russia too hard when it was down was bound to produce a reaction like this.

    Russians are to blame too. They’ve traveled this road already. They don’t understand that more military might isn’t going to make them more secure or improve their well-being. Quite the contrary. It will strain their resources, and sacrifice education, health care, etc. NATO was never coming for them. And now they’ve missed the chance to benefit from better relations with the West.

    Some will say they don’t want to be part of the West and its rotten liberal values. They will argue the world is going their way again (Brexit, Trump, etc.). But, again, we’ve heard this tripe before.

    In the end, none of us are more secure if INF is really a dead letter.

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  5. 112th Bde in Shuya apparently staying in Ivanovo Oblast…in process of getting all new base facilities and will be completely contract-manned as of December 1.

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