Russian missile system Iskander is capable of predetermining the nature of war

This post was published in Nezavisimaya Gazeta. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.


MOSCOW, (BM) – In recent years, large-scale exercises of the Russian army have always had a geopolitical component, if only because this is how they see the situation in the Pentagon, NATO, and most importantly, in the Western media.

Especially if we are talking about exercises with a massive strike by Iskander operational-tactical missile systems (OTRK) and Tornado-S multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS). Indeed, at one time the 9K720 Iskander OTRK became one of the key arguments for Russia’s asymmetric response in the military-political confrontation with the collective West, and not so long ago, the United States used claims against Iskander as an excuse to withdraw from the Treaty on Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles ( INF Treaty).

Paradoxically, the geopolitical significance of the Iskander missile system surpasses its excellent combat characteristics. However, the younger MLRS “Tornado-S”, taking into account its performance characteristics, has every opportunity to also acquire geopolitical status.


The exercises at the Kapustin Yar training ground (Astrakhan region) were held within the framework of an operational-special meeting, where the experience of using and operating modern artillery weapons was studied. The massive missile strike was carried out in the presence of a large concourse of high-ranking military leaders, generals and officers of the central bodies of military command and military districts.

For the guidance of the Iskander missile strikes, data obtained in real time from the Orlan-10 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) were used. For the first time, Iskander and Tornado-S were working out combat missions together, and in such a significant number. Considering the combat characteristics of both systems, capable of working both “in areas” and delivering pinpoint strikes, this tandem obviously has a great future.

Policy change

Instead of eliminated in accordance with the Soviet-American Treaty on the elimination of intermediate and shorter-range missiles in 1987, the high-precision 9K714 Oka missile systems (firing range – 400 km), the Kolomna Machine Building Design Bureau in 1991 began developing a new Iskander missile system with higher characteristics. at the same time satisfying the requirements of the contract.

The obsolete 9K72 Elbrus complexes were removed from service by this time. The 9K79 Tochka and 9K79-1 Tochka-U complexes with a maximum firing range of 70 and 120 km did not fall under the contract. They are still in the troops of Russia, Syria, the DPRK, many former republics of the USSR and former countries of the socialist camp.

Serial production of Iskander began in 2006. On November 5, 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in his one-time Address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, announced the deployment of Iskander tactical missile systems in the Kaliningrad region as a response to the deployment of elements of the American missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

This caused a real panic in the West, because in addition to the high flight speed, the ability to intensive maneuvers with excellent capabilities to overcome any missile defense, the Iskander missile can carry a nuclear warhead (YBCH).

OTRK “Iskander” has long been an invariable argument, or even a tub of cold water, in disputes with the West. As a result, in 2016, Iskanders were deployed in the Kaliningrad region on a permanent basis.

The 9M723K1 Iskander solid-propellant single-stage missile was manufactured using stealth technology. The trajectory of movement is quasi-ballistic, control throughout the flight with the help of aerodynamic and gas-dynamic rudders. Most of the flight path takes place at an altitude of about 50 km. The rocket maneuvers intensively in the initial and final flight phases. The guidance system is mixed: inertial (most of the flight) and optical in the final segment. GPS / GLONASS can be used.

The firing range is up to 500 km for Iskander-M and up to 280 km for the export version of Iskander-E. Iskander-K is a missile system for launching cruise missiles, for example, the R-500, which go to the target with automatic bending of the terrain at an altitude of no more than 6 km, and upon reaching the target are reduced to 7 m.

The United States has repeatedly argued that Russia is violating the INF Treaty by developing a land-based cruise missile with a range of more than 500 km. We are talking about the 9M729 rocket, developed by the Yekaterinburg design bureau “Novator”.

The Russian side insists that the 9M729 missile is a modernized version of the 9M728 missile for the Iskander-M missile complex and has a range of no more than 500 km, which meets the requirements of the INF Treaty. But Washington used unproven claims to break the INF Treaty. Bonuses to the geopolitical status of the Iskander were added by their successful application in the Syrian military campaign of Russia.

Until 2020, in accordance with the State Armament Program (GPV-2020), the RF Ground Forces were to receive 120 Iskander complexes (10 brigade kits). This government task was completed by mid-2019.

Reactive argument

In the early 1990s, SNPP “SPLAV” started a deep modernization of the famous MLRS 9K51 “Grad”. The result of these works was the appearance of the 122nd 9K51M Tornado-G system, which, with significant modernization, retained, however, the Gradov maximum firing range of 40 km. Semi-automatic guidance, fire without topographic and geodetic preparation, corrected ammunition.

The 9K58 Smerch MLRS was replaced by a new 300-mm 9K515 Tornado-S MLRS (manufactured by the Perm Motovilikhinskiye Zavody); the prospect of increasing to 200 km, increasing the accuracy of shooting due to the inertial guidance system and the GLONASS system. In its arsenal are unguided rockets and guided missiles 9M542 with a detachable high-explosive fragmentation or cluster warhead.

According to the power-range criterion, Tornado-S is one of the most powerful systems of this type in the world. The area of ​​destruction in a salvo of cluster shells is more than 67 hectares, which is comparable to the effect of the use of tactical nuclear weapons. No similar Western or Chinese system can boast such an area of ​​destruction. One “Tornado-S” can actually replace 20 MLRS “Grad”.

The Tornado-S’s path to the Russian troops was not easy. Only last year, the first production samples began to enter service with the RF Armed Forces. The 439th Guards Rocket Artillery Brigade of the Southern Military District was the first to receive these rocket systems.

There are also plans to upgrade to the Tornado-S level the original Smerch MLRS, which remains in service with the Russian army and 14 other countries. Many foreign customers are interested in reformatting the old Smerch into the new Tornado-S. And this is another important factor – economic.


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