It’s always been clear Moscow would deploy new Iskander-M SRBMs in its Baltic exclave Kaliningrad. Now it has.
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.
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.
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U.S. NSC official has said publicly that the Russian SSC-8, or 9M729 — the cruise missile fired from Iskander-M launchers, is a violation of the INF Treaty. http://bit.ly/2AuJl1w.
Russian 20th CAA commander confirms that his Kursk-based missile brigade will soon replace its Tochka-U with Iskander-M. Mil.ru story published with this picture of the SSC-8 / 9M729 — the cruise missile that violates the INF Treaty. http://bit.ly/2jXZPVW.
Commander of 152nd Missile Brigade in Kaliningrad confirms that infrastructure for Iskander-M SRBM deployment there is almost complete. http://bit.ly/2rZAJxc.
Russia’s Ground Troops CINC Army Gen Oleg Salyukov says Kursk-based 448th Missile Bde is getting its Iskander-M SRBMs. http://bit.ly/2nUITWn.