Russia resumes production of intermediate- and short-range missiles

Recent developments have sparked concern within the international community, stemming from rising political and military tensions in Southeast Asia. 

US could triple next-gen 'hit-to-kill' interceptors NGI to 64
Photo credit: Lockheed Martin

The spotlight has turned to the US’s decision to deploy intermediate-range missiles in the Philippines, a strategic location dating back to the Cold War. Washington claims this move is aimed at containing  China’s influence, but it has elicited a mixed reaction from Russia. 

According to a brief statement from the Russian Defense Ministry, “The Pentagon has deployed missiles in the Philippines, where the two nations are currently engaged in joint exercises near the contested areas of the South China Sea and Taiwan. The exact number of missiles deployed by the Americans remains undisclosed.”

Multi-Domain Task Force

Some Russian sources suggest the underlying reason is to test the functionality of the Multi-Domain Task Force [MDTF], aimed at containing China. In this context, responding to US actions, Russia declared they would resume the production of medium and shorter-range missiles. Moscow’s officials have assured that they are ready to initiate this process immediately. 

This announcement coincided with Washington urging Russia to adhere to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces [INF] Treaty, despite the US officially withdrawing from it in 2019.

A new round of the Cold War?

Russia loaded a nuke-Avangard missile into the Orenburg silo
Photo credit: Sergey Kazak

Since the United States exited the INF Treaty, there’s been a noticeable push to develop and deploy intermediate-range, land-launched missiles for combat purposes. Some media outlets suggest that  Russia’s decision to ramp up missile production is a direct response to the U.S. deploying its missiles in places like the Philippines. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry has stated, We reserve the right to respond in kind, which will mean an end to Russia’s unilateral moratorium on the deployment of these weapons systems. In response to the actions of the United States, Russia intensified its development and began production of such missile systems. Moreover, given the previously announced R&D and accumulated developments in the Russian military-industrial complex, this process will not take long. 

Previously, the Ministry of Defense hinted at resuming missile production. The U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty cites not only alleged violations by Russia but also the emergence of similar missiles in countries like China, Pakistan, North Korea, and India. The U.S. has urged Russia to adhere to agreements that it has itself moved away from. 

North Korea's KN-23 ballistic missile flew 460 km, hitting Kharkiv
Photo credit: Military-Today.com

With Russia now escalating its efforts, the dynamic mirrors yet contrasts the Cold War period when the USSR and the U.S. were locked in an arms race. This time around, Russia’s actions could potentially pull the U.S. into a new arms race, likely leading to significantly negative repercussions for Washington.

The first possible option – Relief

One of the most formidable threats to NATO is the Relikt complex. Originally designed by the Novator bureau in the 1980s, this system is armed with KS-122 missiles boasting a range of up to 3,000 kilometers. 

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

While these missiles may look like the S-400 in terms of size and appearance, their power is significantly more menacing. They can carry warheads with a yield of up to 200 kilotons. Just to put that in perspective the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were around 20 kilotons. Discussions about the Relikt system resurfaced in 2023 amid speculations tying it to the development of the Kalibr-M missiles. 

Iskander

The second complex, known as the Iskander, features a missile designated 9M723. This missile boasts a range of 300 km, although the modified version, 9M723-1, extends this reach to 500 km. 

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

Experts believe that this missile served as a foundation for developing the Kinzhal, which significantly surpasses its range, covering up to 1500 km. Even during the era of the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles, experts speculated that the 9M723 could  potentially  travel not just 500 km, but possibly 800 km. 

However, it was never designed nor tested to reach such a distance. Yet, considering Russia’s recent advancements in engine technology, which have managed to extend missile ranges by approximately 40% without altering their design, equipping the 9M723 with a new engine could enable launches up to 900 km.

Zircon

Tsirkon or Tsircon or Zircon missile
Photo credit: Sputnik News

The third option is the Zircon missile, capable of launching from the same platform as a Kalibr missile within a minute. Russian experts assert that no current or future NATO air defense systems can reliably intercept the Zircon missile. 

Military expert Yuriy Knutov shared with “Izvestia” that this missile achieves extraordinary speeds of up to Mach 9, which converts to about 11,000 km/h. It boasts an impressive range of up to 1,000 km. Notably, the Zircon can also be equipped with a nuclear warhead, adding to its formidable capabilities.

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