Iskander-M firing at Tsentr-2011 exercise

Text of report by the website of pro-government Russian newspaper Izvestiya on 26 September

[Report by Gennadiy Melnik and Denis Telmanov: "Iskanders taught to work in formation. Russia’s main military argument tested for first time in conditions close to actual"]

The latest operational-tactical missile complexes, the Iskander-M, with which Russia has threatened first Europe and then the US missile defence system, have taken part for the first time in a combined-arms engagement at the Kapustin Yar Range.

After covering a distance of 60 km two missiles scored a precision hit on an "enemy bunker" 25 September during the Tsentr-2011 exercises. Neighbouring targets were engaged by Tochka-U tactical missiles and Smerch multiple rocket launchers. According to eyewitness accounts, "craters and liquefied earth" were all that remained of the targets.

The army now has actual experience of employing the most awesome – after nuclear – weapon, one which in the experts’ opinion is extremely important for the organization of land groupings throughout the country’s territory.

First and foremost, Iskanders capable of firing 500-600 km are needed on the country’s Western and Southwestern lines [rubezhi], from where its missiles will be able to reach American missile defence complexes in Poland and Romania, the military expert Konstantin Sivkov believes.

"In an area of Poland the United States is creating a missile defence system based on Patriot SM-3 [as published] missile complexes, in the Southwestern sector there is the threat of missile systems in Romania. We need to counter these threats in time," Sivkov explained.

In addition to this, in the central part of the country the Iskanders are to create a line of defence against the Afghan Talibs, destroying their concentrations and field camps as warranted. On the Kurils and Sakhalin the Iskanders will create an additional defence against Japanese amphibious assault forces if the latter take it into their heads to land on Russian shores.

"Ideally, we need something like 200 of these complexes. The 120 the military are planning to acquire before 2020 is a very good indicator. But you would want the units to have received 50-60 complexes by 2015," Sivkov explained.

In the Russian army today there is only one missile brigade in the Western Military District that is armed with the newest Iskander-M complexes, which is entirely sufficient in this sector, in the opinion of Aleksandr Khramchikhin, deputy head of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis. Whereas in the Far East we need to arm at least five or six brigades with Iskanders.

"China possesses a vast quantity of tactical missiles, and we simply have nothing to counter it with today. Missiles capable of delivering a lethal load over a distance of 500 km will be a serious deterrent factor against foreign aggression," Khramchikhin pointed out.

Even without having been fielded, the Iskander missile complex has enabled Russia to score several victories in the international arena. The stationing areas and issues relating to export deliveries of this awesome weapon have often become the topic of prolonged negotiations between countries by fundamentally changing the military-political situation in individual regions.

So, on learning about possible Iskander deliveries to Syria, in 2005 the United States and Israel invested a great deal of effort in persuading Russia to abandon the deal. As a result, President Vladimir Putin graciously agreed "not to disrupt the balance of forces in the region."

In 2008, the Americans attempted to station elements of a missile defence in Poland, but they changed their mind following President Dmitriy Medvedev’s announcement that, in the event, Iskander complexes would make their appearance in Kaliningrad Oblast.

In February of last year the Iskanders once again became a bargaining chip in missile defence negotiations. Igor Smirnov, president of the unrecognized Dniester republic, called for Russian Iskanders to be stationed in the PMR [Dniester Moldavian Republic] as a retaliatory measure against US plans to station its missile defence in Bulgaria and Romania.

Interestingly enough, the first Iskanders entered service with the, as yet, sole missile brigade only in 2010.

Source: Izvestiya website, Moscow, in Russian 26 Sep 11

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