Russia: What makes the Iskander Missile Factor Important?

The Iskander Factor

The Russian President’s pledge to deploy short-range Iskander-M missiles to the Kaliningrad Region has been no surprise to specialists. First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov mentioned it back last July. In fact it is a matter of rearming the 152nd missile brigade in Chernyakhovsk area, the Kaliningrad Region (the brigade is currently equipped with 18 launch systems of the Tochka-U (Point-U) complex, with their range reaching 120 kilometers).

Rearmament will significantly improve this unit’s firepower. Iskander-M, which has been supplied to the Russian Army since 2005, is equipped with short-range ballistic missiles with the range of 500 kilometers. It will enable the brigade to hit targets in Poland, East Germany and Northern Czech Republic, taking aim at the U.S. AMD elements to be deployed to Poland and the Czech Republic. Although Iskander-M missiles’ accuracy is kept in secret, it is considered that their circular error probable (CEP) is only a few meters, which allows them to hit well-protected targets, including U.S. Ground-Based Interceptors’ (GBI) launchers. It need be added that Russia has never denied the possibility to equip Iskander-M missiles with nuclear warheads.

After 2009 Iskander-M missiles’ firepower may be even improved by means of equipping them with high-accuracy subsonic cruise missiles R-500, which are now tested. The range of these missiles, which are analogue of the U.S. Tomahawk, can amount to 1,000 kilometers. A standard Iskander-M launcher can have six missiles of this type, instead of two ballistic missiles (such a complex will be then called Iskander-K).

The 152nd brigade is unlikely to be reamed before 2010-2011. Probably its rearmament will be timed to the U.S. GBI deployment in Poland so that Russia’s measure would not appear too aggressive.

In military terms, deploying Iskander-M missiles to the Kaliningrad Region will mean boosting the Russian western group’s capabilities – it will be able to hit almost any target in North-Eastern Europe. At the same time, it is very difficult to intercept Iskander-M ballistic missiles with the West’s aircraft defense systems; and mobile launchers are hard to detect too.

Thus it is no surprise that Russia’s plan have caused Europe’s concern. Iskander may become quite an argument when Europeans consider whether their security is worth the U.S. global military and political ambitions. Iskanders in Kaliningrad are much more palpable than hypothetical Iranian missiles. (Link)