Iskander Short Range Ballistic Missile Of Russia-9K720-SS-26 Stone

Iskander is a mobile Short Range Ballistic Missile Of Russia. The Missile systems are to replace the obsolete Tochka systems, still in use by the Russian armed forces, by 2020.


The Iskander (Western reporting name SS-26 Stone) short-range ballistic missile is a successor to the Oka (SS-23 Spider), which was eliminated under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. It was first launched in 1996 and was initially designated by the West as the SS-X-26. At the time of its introduction it was considered the most advanced missile of its kind.

The Iskander-M missile system was officially adopted by the Russian Army in 2006. This system can use different types of missiles. In 2013 it was reported that 5 types of missiles were available for Iskander, and 3 more missiles were still under development. As of 2019 Russian Army reportedly operates 136 of these missile systems. At least one launcher was deployed in Syria.

It is believed that some systems are stationed in Belarus. In 2016 downgraded Iskander-E ballistic missiles were delivered to Armenia. It was the first foreign sale of Iskander missiles. Armenia reportedly operated 25 units. In 2017 Iskander-E systems were delivered to Algeria. This country operates a total of 48 launchers. Some countries, including China and South Korea introduced their own clones of the Iskander. Ukraine is currently developing an equivalent system.

The Iskander road mobile missile system is equipped with two short-range ballistic missiles, which substantially increases firepower of missile units. Each missile can be targeted independently. These missiles are capable of hitting moving targets, as target coordination can be adjusted while the missile is in-flight. The Iskander has several different conventional warheads, including cluster, fuel-air explosive, bunker-busting and electro-magnetic pulse. It can also carry nuclear warheads. Maximum range of fire is 280 km for the Iskander-E downgraded export version and 400 km for the Iskander-M Russian Army version. Minimum range is 50 km.

In 2013 it was reported that 5 types of missiles were already developed for Iskander, and 3 more missiles were still being developed.

The Iskander was designed to overcome air defense systems. This missile travels at supersonic speed. In the terminal phase of the flight it excessively maneuvers and releases decoys. In some cases this ballistic missile can be used as an alternative to precision bombing.

Missiles can be launched 16 minutes from traveling or 4 minutes from the highest readiness. The second missile can be launched in less than a minute once the first missile is launched.

The Transport-Erector-Launcher (TEL) vehicle uses MZKT-7930 Astrolog 8×8 high mobility chassis. It is powered by the YaMZ-846 diesel engine, developing 500 hp. The TEL vehicle has good cross-country mobility. It can be airlifted by an An-124 transport aircraft.

The Iskander TEL is supported by a reloading vehicle, based on the same 8×8 chassis, which carries two reload missiles. Full missile system also includes command vehicle, information preparation vehicle, maintenance and repair vehicle and life support vehicle. All of these vehicles are based on KamAZ 6×6 trucks.

Iskander Variants

Iskander-M is a version used by the Russian Army. It has a range of 400 km and is nuclear-capable. This ballistic missile is fitted with both inertial and optical guidance. Most likely that it is guided using the Russian GLONASS satellite navigation system. Optical seeker provides self-homing capability. It has a claimed CEP of only 2-7 m, depending on the source.

The Russian Army version can also launch R-500 (also known as 9M728) cruise missiles in the same manner as ballistic missiles. Once the launcher is loaded with the R-500 cruise missiles the system is referred as Iskander-K. Officially it has been reported that this cruise missile has a range of 490 km. Though there were estimations that the actual range could be up to 1 500 km.

It looks like Iskander systems with nuclear-tipped R-500 missiles were first deployed operationally in 2017. Interestingly in 2020 during test firing the Iskander-M launched an 9M723 missile, which has a claimed range of 400 km. However the missile went off course and landed at least 620 km from the launch site. Most likely that Russia was deliberately diminished the range of the Iskander.

Iskander-E is a downgraded export version, specially designed to meet Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) restrictions. It has a smaller fuel tank and a maximum range of 280 km. This missile is fitted with a simplified inertial guidance system. It is not as accurate as the Russian Army version, and has a CEP of 30-70 m. To compensate for this relatively low accuracy the missile can carry warhead with cluster munitions. This missile system has been delivered to Armenia and Algeria.

SSC-8 or SSC-X-8 is a new Russian cruise missile system. In 2019, after years of denials, Russia acknowledged existence of a new nuclear missile, called the 9M729. It was first publicly revealed in 2019. The 9M729 can be seen as an extended-range version of the 9M728 missile. Western reporting name of this new system is SSC-X-8 or SSC-8, while Russian designation is unknown.

Officially it has been reported that the 9M729 has a range of only 480 km. Though United States denied that claiming that Russia already launched these missile at longer ranges. There are estimations that the new missile could have a range of around 2 000-2 500 km. Some sources even estimate that its actual range could be up to 5 500 km. This missile carries a low-yield nuclear warhead.

Russian officials have long said they could extend the reach of their Iskander systems with little difficulty. First test launch was made in 2008 and this missile passed state trials in 2014. This new missile is also carried and launched by Belarusian MZKT-7930 special wheeled chassis with 8×8 configuration. The launcher vehicle resembles that as used by Iskander and Iskander-K systems, but has a raised rear missile compartment in order to accommodate 4 cruise missiles.

By early 2019 Russia already operated at least 64 of these missiles. This led the United States to leave the 1987 INF treaty, as development and fielding of this Russian cruise missile apparently violated it.

M20 is a Chinese version of the Iskander. The M20 system also carries 2 missiles with broadly similar capabilities, and is based on 8×8 high mobility chassis. However it uses containerized ballistic missiles and is overall a more versatile system. It can also carry anti-ship missiles and pods with artillery rockets. The M20 has been exported to some countries.

Hyunmoo 2 is a South Korean version of Iskander-E. The launcher vehicle is also based on an 8×8 high mobility chassis, however it carries a single missile. Just like the Iskander-E, the original missile had a range of around 300 km and could carry around 500 kg of payload. Though South Koreans soon introduced improved versions of this missile with a range of 500 and even 800 km.

KN-23 is a North Korean ballistic missile system. The KN-23 is not an actual name, but rather a provisional name. It was developed with Russia’s and possibly China’s assistance. This missiles was first publicly revealed in 2018 and was first tested in 2019. It demonstrated a range of 600-700 km and can carry nuclear warhead.

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