Artillery: January 20, 2005

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Apparently there were some preliminary negotiations between Russia and Syria, which wanted to  buy 18 of the new Russian Iskander E (the export version of the SS-26) ballistic missiles. Russia quickly denied that such talks were underway, especially when the United States threatened economic retaliation if Syria got hold of Iskanders. Syria has very little money for new weapons, which raises questions about who would finance such a deal. The Iskanders would probably cost several hundred thousand dollars each, depending on which warhead and guidance system they were equipped with. Syria could use Iskanders to make precision attacks on Israeli military targets, although the Israeli Arrow anti-missile system could probably knock down all, or most, of the Iskanders fired. 

The Iskander is a new missile, whose development is not yet complete. The 3.8 ton missile has a range of 300 kilometers, and a half ton warhead. Russia sells several different types of warheads, including cluster munitions, thermobaric (fuel-air explosive) and electro-magnetic pulse (anti-radar, and destructive to electronics in general.) Guidance is very accurate, using GPS, plus infrared homing for terminal guidance. Russia developed the solid fuel Iskander to replace its Cold War era SS-23 battlefield ballistic missiles (which in turn had replaced SCUD). The SS-23 had to be withdrawn from service and destroyed by 1991, because the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty prohibited missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,300 kilometers. Iskanders are carried in an 8x8 truck, which also provides a launch platform. Each truck carries two missiles. The non-export version of Iskander has a range of 400 kilometers. Post Cold War financial problems slowed down development of Iskander, leaving Russia dependent on the shorter range (120 kilometers) SS-21 system, along with some aging SCUDS,  for battlefield ballistic missile support. 

 


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