In nod to European missile defense, Russia rolls out Iskander missiles

The Iskander missile system goes on parade in Moscow RIA Novosti / Ilya Pitalev
The missile brigade of the Western Military District has become the first unit of the Russian Armed Forces to make the switch to Iskander tactical missile systems, military spokesman Col. Andrey Bobrun told Interfax-AVN on Thursday.

­As the rhetoric between Russia and the US heats up over the latter’s plan to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, the Russian military said it is introducing a state-of-the-art missile system to defend the western part of the country.

"The Western Military District's missile brigade, the first one in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation that has been fully equipped with the most advanced missile systems, known as Iskander, launched tactical exercises at a training range in the Leningrad region today," Bobrun said.

The Iskander missile systems are expected to eventually phase out the Tochka tactical missile systems, which have been used by the Armed Forces since the 1970s.

Bobrun said the new missile system clearly outperforms its predecessor.

"The Iskander complex outperforms its predecessor in all characteristics, including its flight range, target accuracy, warhead weight, ammunition quantity and its speed of movement on paved roads, as well as the cross-country terrain," he said.

In a thinly-veiled comment aimed at the European missile defense shield, the spokesman for the Western Military District then mentioned the system’s capabilities to “overpower” any and all such defensive systems.

One of the main combat advantages of the Iskander system is its "ability to overpower the existing and future missile defense shields of foreign states," Bobrun said.

Washington is adamant about constructing a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, just miles from the Russian border, despite Moscow’s contention that such a system would be viewed as a national security threat.

Presently, Russia and the United States maintain their nuclear parity based on the unspoken rule of “mutually assured destruction,” which adheres to the ‘you-kill-me-I-kill-you’ principle.  It is this rule that has kept nation's from resorting to the "suicidal" first-strike option. The introduction of a missile defense system into the nuclear calculus, however, would give US and NATO forces a hypothetical chance, Russian military brass argue, of “shielding” themselves from a Russian counter-attack, thus negating the principles of mutually assured destruction.

President Dmitry Medvedev warned his Western counterparts that unless Russia and NATO can come to some sort of an agreement over missile defense, an arms race was inevitable. He also expressed dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s reaction to his proposals.

"I am not satisfied with the American side's reaction to my proposals and with NATO's reaction in general,” the Russian leader told reporters at the G-8 Summit in France in May. “Why? Because we are wasting time. Even though I spoke about the year 2020 yesterday as a deadline…which is the year when the construction of a four-stage system of the so-called adaptive approach ends." 

"After 2020, if we do not come to terms, a real arms race will begin," Medvedev warned.

Thus far, little progress has been made between Russian and NATO diplomats on the question of incorporating Russian missile experts into the project, which promises to expand both geographically and technologically. Meanwhile, Russia continues to develop a military response.

According to Bobrun, the Iskander mobile missile system is designed for use in operations against ground-based targets such as command centers, force groups, air and missile defense facilities, as well as aircraft at airfields. The weapon systems have high tactical maneuverability and can be delivered by all types of delivery systems, including from aircraft.

All Iskander systems have "a long service life and a period of operation, and their reliability has been confirmed more than once, during numerous exercises of rocket force units and artillery units of the Western Military District," Bobrun said.

Robert Bridge, RT