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The Iskander Ballistic Missile May Be Russia's Newest Ship-Killer

Michael Peck

Security, Europe

First, China developed long-range "carrier-killer" ballistic missiles. Now, Russia's Iskander ballistic missile system may have the same mission.

First, China developed long-range "carrier-killer" ballistic missiles. Now, Russia's Iskander ballistic missile system may have the same mission.

In late July and early August, Russia conducted two simulated "electronic launches" of the 9K720 Iskander-M (NATO code name, SS-26 Stone) against ships in the Black Sea, according to Russian media.

"An 'electronic' launch likely means a field combat simulation where the missile unit prepares and performs all procedures for a real-world launch without firing a live missile," explains the Russian Defense Policy blog. 

But exactly which missile did Russia pretend to launch? The Iskander, developed in the 1970s as a replacement for the Scud, is a road-based mobile launch system that can fire several models of ballistic and cruise missiles. The  Iskander-M is a single-stage ballistic missile, armed with a conventional or nuclear warhead, and a range of 500 kilometers (311 miles).

However, the Russia Beyond news site describes how the Iskander system can fire anti-ship versions of the R-500 Kalibr cruise missiles with a range of 500 kilometers (311 miles).        

"These missiles are readjusted for targeting second and third-class destroyers – basically ships that are capable of carrying Tomahawk missiles and parts of the Aegis ballistic missile defense system," Russia Beyond writes. "Ships of this class – aside from the USS Ticonderoga – act as the main launching pads for Washington’s precision-guided Prompt Global Strikes.

The anti-ship missiles can fly towards their targets at 2,000 kilometers per hour (1,243 miles). They also skirt above the water – at an altitude of only 5 to10 meters (16 to 33 feet), which means hitting it with any sort of sea-based anti-missile defense systems is practically impossible. The missile’s payload ranges from 200 to 500 kilogram (441 to 1,102 pounds). The lighter ones normally target destroyers, while the heavier ones are intended for cruisers."

"There’s no running from these assassins," Russia Beyond dramatically declares. In fact, a missile traveling at slower than Mach 2 can be shot down by missiles or point defense cannon.

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