Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Iskander deployment in Belarus

Today’s news agencies report that Russia might re-equip its forces with Iskander missiles (SS-26 Stone) and it also contemplates to deploy them in neighboring Belarus. The development of the tactical short-range missile started in the early 1970’s and it is in service since 1998.

The missile is regarded to be of high combat effectiveness. The former director of Israel's Missile Defence Agency, Uzi Rubin, concluded that the Iskander is “is the first ballistic missile ever to include built-in countermeasures against the West's growing range of deployed theatre missile defence [TMD] systems”. These countermeasures include:
· Boost phase maneuvering;
· Depressed trajectory (apogee of 50 km);
· Low radar signature, achieved by "a special composite"; and
· Terminal phase maneuvering.

The Iskander missile system is in between designed to engage air and missile defense facilities.

Currently only one missile battalion in Russia is fully equipped with Iskander missiles. Another one will follow in 2008. Until 2015 the number is scheduled to increase to five. In addition to that, Russia and Belarus have been in talks for several years on the delivery of Iskander-E complexes to equip at least one Belarus missile brigade by 2015. Other sources mention 2020. The situation is a bit blurry: while a Belarussian defense ministry spokesman said there had been no discussion of any such deployment, another spokesperson said in Minsk that Belarus planned to purchase and incorporate the Iskander in one of its missile brigades by 2020 under its military program.

Leaving the date aside, the Commander of Russian Armed Forces Missile Troops and Artillery Col. Gen. Vladimir Zaritsky called the deployment of the Iskander in Belarus an asymmetrical response by Russia to the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in Europe. He was further quoted that “"Any action must have a counter-action“. But this reaction is literally falling short. There are two versions of the Iskander missile. The first version is deployed by the Russian army and has a range of 400km and a payload of 480kg. A second version, the Iskander-E, was especially designed to meet the MTCR restrictions, so it can be exported. This E-version has a range of 280km (i.e. below the MTCR’s 300km range limit) and a payload of 415kg. This is the type Belarus would receive. Even if the country were to deploy the Iskander-E in the utmost Western part of its territory, the missiles could by no means reach the potential future U.S. missile defense bases in Poland and the Czech Republic. Redzikowo, the potential site for the interceptor base, is located roughly 450km away from the Belarussian border and Brdy in the Czech Republic, which is under discussion to host the radar, is even further away, roughly 720km. Even the Russian non-export version could not reach the bases.

This would be indeed an asymmetrical response. Stay tuned for the next episode of “The big sabre-rattling”.

© picture: RIA Novosti

1 comment:

Sven Ortmann said...

This is topical again and I found it by searching for Iskander (a missile that I'm especially interested in).

The range information shouldn't be taken so seriously, though.
The real figure might very well be different from the official one, although I don't expect more than 500 km due to the INF? treaty that's afaik still in force.
Otherwise, both maneuvering and reduced apogee can only be used at a cost of some km range.

Anyway - the West could deploy some TMD systems to counter threats - no-one really knows whether the SRBM would really penetrate that defence.