Russian Iskander-M Missile System: Credible Deterrent
Andrei AKULOV | 19.09.2016 | WORLD

Russian Iskander-M Missile System: Credible Deterrent

The most modern weapons in the world produced by Russia were on display at the international military exposition «Army 2016», which took place on September 6-11, 2016 outside Moscow. 80 delegations across the world attended the event. More than 1,000 Russian manufacturers, researchers and members of the military universities were among the participants. «Real battle» simulations were presented to the foreign delegations by various branches of the Russian military. The Iskander-M tactical missile system - the most effective and deadly nonstrategic ballistic missile in existence, attracted particular attention.

The Iskander-M is a mobile short-range ballistic missile system designed to be used in theater level conflicts with an official range of up to 500 km (minimum-50 km) to comply with the limits of the INF Treaty. Highly mobile and stealth, it can hardly be detected even with the help of space reconnaissance assets. The accuracy, range and ability to penetrate defenses allow it to function as an alternative to precision bombing for air forces that cannot expect to launch bombing or cruise missile fire missions reliably in the face of superior enemy fighters and air defenses.

Deadly to stationary infrastructure along a broad front of conflict, it is intended to engage small and area targets (both moving and stationary), such as hostile critical infrastructure facilities, fire weapons (missile systems, multiple launch rocket systems, long-range artillery pieces), air and antimissile defense weapons, command posts and communications nodes, troops in concentration areas and fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft at airfields. Jets operating from forward bases will immediately come under threat of attack, or at least immobilization.

The Iskander-M weighs 4615 kg. It is system is equipped with two solid-propellant single-stage guided missiles, which use stealth technology. Each missile in the launch carrier vehicle can be independently targeted in a matter of seconds.

The missile cruises at hypersonic speed of 2100–2600 m/s (Mach 6–7). The high velocity of the missile allows it to penetrate antimissile defenses. Flight altitude is up to 6–50 km. Interval between launches: less than a minute. The missile can maneuver at different altitudes and trajectories and can turn at up to 20 to 30 G to evade anti-ballistic missiles. It is controlled in all phases of the flight with gas-dynamic and aerodynamic control surfaces. Targets can be located not only by satellite and aircraft but also by a conventional intelligence center, by an artillery observer or from aerial photos scanned into a computer.

The missiles can be re-targeted during flight in the case of engaging mobile targets, making it possible to engage mobile targets (including ships). The optically guided warhead can also be controlled by encrypted radio transmission, including such as those from AWACS or UAV. The electro-optical guidance system provides a self-homing capability. The missile's on-board computer receives images of the target, then locks onto it with its sight and descends towards it at supersonic speed. The circular error probable (CEP) is 5–7 meters.

The Iskander was designed to evade missile defenses. .In flight, the missile follows an alterable trajectory with rapid acceleration, performing evasive maneuvers in the terminal phase of flight and releasing decoys to spoof interceptor missiles to overcome the enemy's missile defense systems.

Following a relatively flat trajectory, the missile never leaves the atmosphere as it. False targets and small jammers separate from the rocket upon approaching the target. Iskander-M carries a complex of electronic warfare jamming devices, both passive and active, for the suppression of the enemy's radar. As such, the missile is extremely difficult to intercept with current missile defense technologies.

The Iskander has several conventional warhead options weighing between 480 and 700 kg, depending on type. These include a high explosives (HE) variant, sub-munition dispenser variant, fuel-air explosive variant, a HE penetrator variant or a nuclear payload (50 thousand tons of TNT to make it a truly versatile weapon.

The system can be transported by any means of transport, including cargo aircraft. It can operate in temperatures ranging from -50 to +50 degrees Celsius (-58 to +122 F) - practically everywhere in the world.

New missiles are being developed for the system.

Aleksander Dragovalovsky, deputy commander of Russia's missile forces, said «This system, the Iskander-M, has a great potential for modernization, which is happening in terms of armaments and missiles in particular. That is, the standard array of missiles is growing and new missiles are being developed».

According to the assessment of the National Interest, the Iskander missile system is one of 5 Russian most formidable weapons NATO should fear.

NATO members, such as Romania and Poland, which deploy Aegis Ashore missile defense systems on their soil, become targets for the Iskander-M. The Russia’s response to the bloc’s increased military presence and intensified activities near Russian borders may include deploying Iskander missiles in the border areas to counter the potential threat, for instance in the Kaliningrad region. Practically undetectable on the ground, extremely accurate, flying at hypersonic speeds and possessing missile defense capabilities, the Iskander-M performs the role of efficient deterrence to make any potential aggressor think twice before crossing the red line.