Iskander-M missile production soars in Russian military push

According to Valery Kashin, the mastermind behind Russia’s state-controlled missile systems unit, KB Mashinostroyeniya, the manufacturing of the 9K720 compact tactical ballistic missile has evidently surpassed the rates of past years. “The missile is being churned out in much larger numbers than in any previous years,” shares the Russian spokesperson for the firm. 

Why did Russia increase the Iskander-M nuclear missile production?
Photo credit: YouTube

Kashin mentions that deliveries also are expected to ramp up considerably in 2023, reinforcing his previous announcements during the Army-2023 forum, an annual event staged on the outskirts of Moscow. 

Pundits observe that towards the close of 2023 and the onset of 2024, we see a marked surge in the use of the 9K720 missile. “It’s common to see double strikes,” experts explain, hinting at the Russian strategy of deploying two 9K720 missiles towards the same target.

NASA: Russia hit Mirgorod MiG-24 base with ballistic missiles - Iskander-M
Photo credit: Reddit

9K720 attacks assets

The Russian military has been escalating its use of the Iskander-M missiles against Ukrainian targets since mid-March this year. Just a scant two days ago, 9K720s struck the southern Ukrainian city of Odesa, a critically important commercial port, causing damage to administrative buildings according to Ukrainian accounts. The Defense Forces of Southern Ukraine, as reported by RBC-Ukraine, stated that there was one casualty resulting from these attacks. 

Simultaneously, a grave warning was issued by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He warned that Kyiv’s stockpile of anti-aircraft missiles could potentially be depleted if Russia steps up its aggressive attacks. As quoted, “Late in the night, an Iskander-M missile was launched by the adversary over Odessa, targeting the port infrastructure.” 

No more than 20 hours ago, both Russian and Ukrainian sources made an alarming disclosure. An Iskander-M had carried out a massive attack on a key Ukrainian facility. This facility, located near Zalisne in the Sumy Oblast, reportedly housed a storage unit for the Ukrainian military, holding 32 D-20 howitzers. Regrettably, a 9K720 missile launched from an Iskander-M complex completely destroyed this warehouse, as evident from the accompanying drone footage.

Timely speech

Kashin has announced an increase in missile production for the Ishkander-M system, following an attack on the production workshop of the Votkin Machine-Building Plant about two months ago. BulgarianMilitary.com notes that initial reports from February 7th suggested that drone strikes successfully targeted the production lines for operational-tactical and ballistic missiles. 

Russian agencies, citing the United Duty Dispatch Service of Zavyalovsky District in Udmurtia, reported an explosion during “scheduled tests of rocket engines.” The Votkin Machine-Building Plant holds a crucial role in the national military-industrial ecosystem, manufacturing a variety of missile systems. These include the Iskander-M operational-tactical missiles, the Topol-M and Yars strategic missiles, and the sea-based Bulava missiles. Furthermore, this facility also handles the dismantling of retired missiles. 

The plant has had a history of previous incidents, such as a significant explosion in August of the preceding year, which completely destroyed one of the buildings. Early conjecture suggested a drone strike as the cause, but a further investigation revealed an explosive device concealed within an armored capsule on site. According to the official report, “equipment was activated on the territory of the production site of JSC ‘Votkinsky Zavod’, resulting in explosions and smoke.”

What do we know about the 9K720 missile?

In our comprehensive examination of Russia’s military capabilities, we turn our attention to the 9K720 missile system, more commonly known as the Iskander. This short-range, tactical ballistic missile system serves as Russia’s solution to its aging Scud missile system. Astoundingly, its operational range sits around 500 kilometers, or roughly 310 miles, making it superbly effective for striking enemy facilities and infrastructure while remaining inaccessible for counterattacks. 

Get this, the 9K720 Iskander utilizes a single-stage solid propellant. This efficient fuel enables it to promptly reach its maximum range. Together with an internal computer system that integrates both inertial and optical guidance systems, this missile maintains an infallible accuracy in its trajectory. After launch, the missile follows an almost-ballistic path, making interception profoundly difficult.  

If you’re already impressed, brace yourself for its payload capabilities. Upon reaching its target, the Iskander is capable of unleashing an array of warheads, ranging from conventional high-explosive, submunition, fuel-to-air, and even nuclear. This is truly a testament to the versatility of weapon systems.

Iskander-M missile production soars in Russian military push
Photo credit: Twitter

One brigade Iskander-M

An Iskander-M brigade is a formidable assembly, boasting 51 unique vehicles. These include 12 vehicles each of launcher transporters and reloading transporters, in addition to 11 control vehicles. To support the brigade’s personnel, they also have 14 dedicated support vehicles, alongside a data preparation vehicle and an indispensable service and repair vehicle. 

Impressively, a brigade can unleash 48 missiles simultaneously and can be quickly rearmed if it’s near missile storage facilities. To manage such potential, the brigades are structured into three battalions, each possessing two batteries equipped with a pair of launchers.

Russia: Ukraine's four HIMARS were destroyed, we used Iskander
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MIM-104 Patriot also fell victim

In the hostilities that began in February 2022, the Iskander-M missile system has found itself under a renewed spotlight due to its destructive capabilities. On March 9, it struck a severe blow by targeting and demolishing Ukraine’s most valuable military asset, a US MIM-104 Patriot missile system, along with a Soviet S-300 air defense system. The intense event unfolded in the disputed Donetsk region, as shown by video evidence. 

The removal of these expensive and scarce resources has paved the way for a more extensive deployment of the Russian air force in the area. As the Iskander-M production ramps up, various sources, including those from the US government, suggest that Russia is also reinforcing its short-range ballistic missile launch capacities by acquiring North Korea’s KN-23 systems. 

These systems strikingly resemble the Iskander-M in design and function. However, they offer a considerably longer range. In particular, the larger variant, the KN-23B, can carry a substantially heavier payload.

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