Will the Russian Iskander ballistic missile system fight ships?

WARSAW, (BM) – The Russian armed forces plan to use the Iskander missile launchers as part of the coastal defense system. Their main purpose is to be large amphibious ships during the implementation of amphibious tasks, learned BulgarianMilitary.com citing the polish news agency Defence24.

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According to the information provided by the TASS agency, in 2020 rocket brigades of the land forces are to begin training in combating large amphibious ships. In this way, it is expected to increase the strike potential of the Russian Navy – by further diversifying the set of missiles that can be used in an attack on ships.

Exploit the gap in air and missile defense

The Russians are well aware that most anti-aircraft systems are not prepared to counter missiles traveling along the ballistic track. Therefore, training in the use of land missile brigades, as part of the coastal defense system, is to be cyclical and include as many of these units as possible.

The very nature of the Iskander missiles, which were not prepared to combat surface targets, but rather to attack stationary land objects, is an obstacle. Therefore, the first attempts to use this system in the defense of the coast carried out this year were associated with the destruction of the enemy’s combat equipment only at the time of its disembarkation from the landing ships. An exercise of this kind was carried out for the needs of the Black Sea Fleet.

For this purpose, the batteries of the “Iskander” system were used, set up on a training ground near Krasnodar, about 70 km from the coast. The test consisted of “electronic” launching of rockets based on data obtained from own ships, aircraft and drones. According to the Russians, these actions were to prevent the occupation of the Black Sea coast. The “Iskander” in these maneuvers were not used to combat warships, but to unload them.

Many unknowns – Defence24’s comment

There are many unknowns in the Russian communiqué. First, it is not known how many land missile brigades are to be prepared to support the Russian navy. There are probably thirteen such units in the Russian Federation at present, and only some of them will be developed in coastal regions – especially in the vicinity of the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea.

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Second, it is not known how ballistic missiles will be used to attack mobile watercraft. So far, the Russians initially assume that the main targets of their “Iskander” will be large landing ships, which are to be stationary when unloading equipment. However, this would require a very quick response time associated with the transfer of the position of the attacked vessels practically in real time.

“Iskander”, which officially have the maximum range: 400-500 km, will therefore have to be moved closer to the coast in order for the missiles to find their targets in the indicated place. The impact must be very precise, because the Iskander CEP [Circular Error Probable] hit error is currently determined at 10-30 m. In the case of land targets, this is acceptable considering the firepower of the warhead. In the case of ships, not hitting the deck with a width of 13 to 32 m is tantamount to hitting the water and not causing major damage.

The Russians, of course, claim that the Iskanders are as accurate as coastal anti-ship missile systems and exceed them in range, which, however, is not entirely true. Rockets from systems such as “Bał” and “Bastion” can attack swiftly moving surface targets at distances from 200 to even 500 km. So far, the “Iskander” are only better at fighting the landing forces already landed on the shore.

Meanwhile, the Russians themselves believe that attacking ships is a priority, because neutralizing the marines after landing is much more difficult. The more so as the loading of forces from large helicopter-landing ships onto direct landing units and transport helicopters can now take place at a great distance from the coast.

Read more: Russia’s Iskander complex will launch a massive missile attack, Moscow said


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