The S-400 Triumph Air defense systems based in Kaliningrad Oblast are now operational in Kaliningrad. The S-400 radar is capable of tracking over a 100 targets at a distance of more than 400 kilometers and take on 12 of these 100 goals at varying ranges, depending on the type of missile used. The missiles that can be used have a range of 400, 250 or 120 km. The 400-kilometer missile can reportedly fly at Mach 12 (9,100 miles/h or 14,700 km/h) with a 40,000 to 50,000-meter maximum flight altitude and must be shot down at high or medium altitude. The S-400 Triumph System is optimized to shoot down either ballistic missiles or cruise missiles but can also be used against signals surveillance aircraft and radar planes like AWACS. The 400 km missile is said to be able to shoot down even fighter/attack-aircrafts. S-400 Triumph’s Nato report name is SA-21 Growler. The Russians can also utilize fighter aircraft with the R-37 Vympel missiles with a range of 300 km against AWACS.
A ballistic missile is always a surface to surface missile. Iskander-M is actually a semi-ballistic missile, i.e. its flightpath is within the stratosphere. It may be worth considering when discussing range. To fully flee the earth’s gravity it requires a minimum speed of 11 km/s. A rule of thumb is that the lower trajectory up to 45 degrees, the shorter the range of a missile, given the same conditions in other prestanda. A lower trajectory also means that Iskander-M can maneuver throughout its whole flightpath within the stratosphere. Iskander-M can be preprogrammed to avoid air defense missiles by a series of pirouettes in its final phase. The Russians claim that the Iskander-M missile cannot be shot down due to its maneuverability. It would be helpful if we could figure out in what phase of its trajectory one should try to shoot down an Iskander-M, so that it at least isn’t in the phase where it maneuvers the jerkiest when our air defense missile reaches it. I guess time of impact depends on what type of air defense missile system we use.
Most analysts now (2015) assume that the Iskander extended range version with a range of over 600 km must be the Iskander-K cruise missile and not the ballistic missile Iskander-M. Maybe so. But the range of Iskander-M tends to be lowered following after what the Kremlin says for political reasons. Today, many here in Sweden say that the Iskander-M has a range of 400 km. I don’t think so! Additionally, the range of the Iskander-K is most likely also violating the INF agreement, even if the missile is carrying a heavier nuclear warhead.
Should Russia forebode a threat in Europe, specifically an American missile shield, they will take themselves the right to permanently deploy Iskander-M in Kaliningrad Oblast, from which it will pose a threat to Poland and also Germany, not to mention Sweden. The Russian military spokesman, then Colonel Andrey Bobrun, said that the extended Iskander missile is designed for operations against land-based targets such as command centers, force groups, air and missile defense facilities and aircraft at airfields. He also said that; ”The weapon systems have high tactical maneuverability and can be delivered [He should mean be transported] by all types of delivery systems, including from aircraft ”.
What is most foreboding with Iskander-M is that, in its extended version, it probably covers the Stockholm area within its reach from Kaliningrad. It’s called 9K720 Iskander-M (SS-26 Stone) – Extended Range Version Program, which Putin developed after Bush’s proclamation of America’s right to pre-emptive nuclear strikes and his intended missile base in Poland.
The missiles warhead generally weighs more if it is nuclear, i.e. approximately 750 kg versus 480-700 kg if it’s conventional, so paradoxically it will be the Iskander missile carrying a conventional warhead that clearly violates the INF agreement. It may therefore be that Russia wishes to abolish the INF Treaty for the possibility of extending the range of Iskander-M with conventional explosive charges.
The head of the Russian General Staff, Nikolaj Makarov stated in an article published on November 17, 2011 in the Washington Post that; ”Under certain circumstances, local and regional conflicts may escalate into a full-scale war, involving nuclear weapons.” Can it be said any clearer? Putin may have his aim at small non-nuclear and non-NATO countries like Sweden, Finland and Georgia when he spoke of preventive Russian attacks, if Iskander has a range of >500 kilometers with a 750 kg nuclear charge.
Immediately after Makarov’s statement, in November 2011, Russian President Dimitrj Medvedev showed up on Russia Today’s network television media and mentioned in passing the number 500 kilometer range of Iskander-M missiles in conjunction with a declaring that Russia will be forced to resign from the START Treaty if the missile base is built in Poland, and he also mentioned that Russia may or may not build its own missile shield. This figure, 500 km, is completely contrary to what has been said from Russian authorities earlier on. We can only hope that the Russians have reconsidered now. But the core point with an extended range version is that it has a longer range than the previous Iskander-M missile which satisfied the INF agreement.
U.S. Colonel (retired) Sam Gardiner, believes it is unlikely that West at this time has the political will to raise the issue of Iskander on the agenda. The question does not raise interest even in military circles. Gardiner raised the question of Iskander’s range in a seminar he held in both Stockholm and Tallinn for the air force in the region, as well as in the USAF headquarters in Germany. As for the reactions, ”he could as well have been talking about the price of oranges on the Asian market,” he said in a private conversation in 2010.
What do you think is more important to Putin with the Iskander-M, to deliver nuclear strikes or to deliver conventional strikes? Motivate your standpoint.
Note that this is more of a philosophical question than a strategic. I want to stimulate your cognition.
Roger M. Klang, defense political spokesman for the Christian Values Party (Kristna Värdepartiet) in Sweden