Since the fall of last year, the Russian armed forces have been participating in hostilities in Syria. The bulk of combat work is carried out by aircraft and helicopters of the Aerospace Forces. In addition, an air defense grouping and a Marine Corps base have been deployed. Naval ships and submarines are taking part in the operation to a certain extent. The ground forces are involved in the operation on a limited basis and with the forces of relatively small formations perform some of the existing tasks. One of these tasks, as it has been argued over the past few months, is to deter some potential adversaries using Iskander tactical missile systems.
Soon after its appearance, the 9K720 Iskander operational-tactical missile system (OTRK) became the topic of discussion not only of a technical, but also of a military-political nature. The ability to engage targets at ranges of up to several hundred kilometers made this system not only a powerful model of modern weapons, but also an effective means of influencing the political situation. The tactical and technical characteristics and the military-political potential of the complex regularly became an occasion for discussion in the context of various events. Therefore, it was quite natural that such conversations were resumed after the start of the Russian operation in Syria.
Iskander-M self-propelled launcher. Photo Wikimedia Commons
Initially, in the first months of the operation, the possibility of sending the Iskander OTRK to the Khmeimim base was only a matter of controversy. Practice has shown that the assigned tasks of combating terrorists can be solved by the Aerospace Forces with some participation of other branches of the armed forces, primarily the navy. Apparently, it is for this reason that the Russian armed forces sent various types of aviation equipment to Syria, as well as anti-aircraft systems, etc. The transfer of the OTRK, however, was not undertaken, and there were not even any rumors on this topic.
Unconfirmed reports of the beginning of combat operation of the Iskander complexes in Syria appeared only at the end of this winter. Around February, rumors began to circulate among specialists and amateurs of military affairs about the transfer of missile systems to Syria to carry out combat work in one direction or another. However, during the first few weeks, these reports did not have any decent confirmation, remaining purely rumors.
The situation changed dramatically at the end of March. On March 27, 2016, the Zvezda TV channel aired another episode of the “I Serve Russia!” Program. One of the plots of this program was devoted to the partial withdrawal of the Russian group from the Khmeimim airbase. While filming the takeoff of the An-124 military transport aircraft with three Mi-35 helicopters on board, a certain sample of ground equipment with a characteristic silhouette hit the camera lens. The wheel configuration, the shape of the hull and other features of the vehicle made it possible to identify the Iskander-M self-propelled launcher in it. Thus, the rumors about the transfer of such equipment to Syria received the first worthy confirmation.
It is curious that the officials did not comment on such a "leak" of information about the strengthening of the grouping of troops at the Khmeimim base in any way.Nevertheless, the general public and experts did not wait for official statements, immediately starting to discuss the important news. In particular, one of the topics of discussion was the identification of the equipment included in the Zvezda channel's report. It was suggested that it was not the Iskander-M launcher that was spotted at the base in Syria, but the Bastion coastal complex or other equipment on a similar wheeled chassis. Nevertheless, some design features of the seen machine made it possible to unambiguously identify the newest OTRK in it.
Iskander-M near the runway of the Khmeimim base. Shot from t / p "I Serve Russia!"
Just a couple of days later, a new indirect confirmation of the transfer of operational-tactical missile systems appeared. In the last days of March, first in the Turkish, and then in the foreign media, there were reports about the reaction of official Ankara. It was argued that in connection with the transfer of Russian complexes to Syria, the Turkish military leadership gave the order to withdraw the main command posts and communication systems outside the Iskander's zone of responsibility, or to disguise them on the ground due to the impossibility of evacuation.
According to some reports, by now, Russian OTRKs have already managed to take part in hostilities, although, as often happens, this has not been confirmed by official reports. In June this year, the Internet edition "Military Informant" presented its version of events in the area of the Bab al-Hawa crossing, located on the border of Turkey and Syria. According to the version of this publication, on the night of June 9, the positions of the militants in the area of the border crossing were destroyed with the help of Iskander-M complexes. The target was both field fortifications and automobile convoys of terrorists concentrated in the strike area. Later, sources in the Syrian military department confirmed the fact of the missile strike, but noted that the operation did not use Iskander, but older Tochka complexes.
In early August, against the backdrop of ongoing fighting for Aleppo, the Syrian military reported the use of Iskander-M tactical missiles by their Russian counterparts. According to various sources, up to three targets were hit. Despite reports from the Syrian military, the Russian side did not confirm the use of the Iskander-M OTRK. In the same way, official Moscow was in no hurry to publish data on the presence of such equipment in Syria.
Over the next few weeks, new evidence of the presence of the Iskander-M OTRK in Syria, as well as their military use against terrorist targets, did not appear. Rather, they were obtained a long time ago, but until a certain time remained unknown. Within two months, this evidence, for one reason or another, did not become public knowledge and was not put into circulation. New photographs of Russian vehicles at the Syrian base were released only in early September.
On September 5, the founder and administrator of the Militaryrussia.ru portal Dmitry Kornev published on his blog several satellite images provided by the site user under the nickname Rambo54. The latter was studying commercial satellite photographs of the Khmeimim base, taken recently, and found something interesting on them, which he soon shared with the public. Three published photographs show various examples of Russian weapons and equipment, including components of the Iskander-M complex. All pictures are dated July 1, 2016.
First satellite image, dated July 1st. Photo Dimmi-tomsk.livejournal.com
The first photo shows one of the airbase sites, where at the time of filming there were two vehicles of the Russian armed forces. According to some features, one of the pieces of equipment was identified as a self-propelled launcher 9P78-1, and in the second one recognized the transport-loading vehicle 9T250.Both of these vehicles are elements of the 9K720 Iskander-M complex, designed to transport and launch several types of ballistic or cruise missiles. This photograph suggests that at least one Russian OTRK was deployed at the Khmeimim base, but other images force a revision of these estimates.
The second satellite photo from Rambo54 shows one of the base sites, given over to parking for vehicles and special equipment. On the site you can see army vehicles of different classes and models, apparently, Ural trucks, UAZ cars and other samples available for the supply of the Russian army. On the edge of one of the rows of vehicles, some cars are visible, covered with a camouflage net. The low quality of the shooting and the network do not allow drawing far-reaching conclusions, but the photo still shows that under the net there are four cars built on the basis of special chassis.
When the images were first published, four pieces of equipment under the camouflage net were identified as two self-propelled launchers and two transport-loading vehicles. Thus, the Syrian grouping of the Russian armed forces has at least two Iskander-M missile systems at its disposal, including a launcher, TZM, as well as some other models of auxiliary equipment. For objective reasons, the latter cannot be unambiguously identified in existing photographs.
The third image is a "general plan" of a fairly large section of the airbase. It captures a part of the runway, a parking lot for automobiles and special equipment, an area with hangars, as well as another open area without any buildings. Some features of the third photograph suggest that the first photograph is a relatively small section of it, which is of the greatest interest in the context of the deployment of missile systems.
The third photo shows that an increasing number of various equipment is in the parking lot, but a camouflage net remains in its old place, covering some large vehicles. At the same time, it can be seen through the network that there are only two pieces of equipment under it, namely the 9P78-1 self-propelled launcher and the 9T250 transport-loading vehicle. Two other vehicles of the second missile complex, in turn, are openly placed on the site not far from the parking lot. It is the position of the equipment on the second site that makes it possible to draw certain conclusions regarding the origin of the first and third satellite photographs.
Second photo. Vehicles are visible in the parking lot, including vehicles under a camouflage net. Photo Dimmi-tomsk.livejournal.com
According to the latest published materials, the Khmeimim airbase currently has at least two operational-tactical missile systems 9K720 Iskander-M. According to unconfirmed reports, this technique has already participated in battles and destroyed a number of enemy targets in several areas. At the same time, it must be remembered that all available information about Russian missile systems has a specific origin, and was also not confirmed by officials. Nevertheless, in such a situation, the information is of great interest both for professionals and for the interested public.
Available photographs suggest that at least two missile systems have been deployed to Syria. Moreover, the Svobodnaya Pressa publication, in its recent article “Khmeimim defend Iskanders”, dedicated to the transfer of this technique, expresses an even bolder version. According to the estimates of the authors of the publication and the specialists they interviewed, at least four missile systems can be deployed at the Khmeimim base. This number is due to the peculiarities of the organizational structure of the units armed with Iskander.
Such equipment is operated by missile brigades, each of which has three divisions. The division consists of two batteries, each of which has two complexes with all the necessary facilities. Since the battalion is the “minimum self-sufficient” structure, at least two batteries, two complexes in each, should be deployed in Syria. This means that the photos from July 1 showed the vehicles of one of the batteries. The equipment of the second such unit, for some reason, did not get into the frame. Perhaps she was disguised, or at the time of filming she had not yet arrived in Syria.
One way or another, a number of operational-tactical missile systems of the latest model have already been deployed to Syria and, apparently, are taking an active part in the fight against terrorists. The Russian military department is in no hurry to publish official reports on the very fact of the transfer of Iskander and their subsequent combat use, however, even without such reports, there is already enough information to form a general picture. In addition, the available amount of data has already allowed experts and non-specialists alike to try to predict the consequences of the transfer of equipment.
It is quite obvious that in the current situation, the transfer of the Iskander-M OTRK to Syria has the same goals as the use of other types of equipment and weapons. The fight against terrorists, in addition to solving the main military-political tasks, has become a good reason for testing the latest developments in a real armed conflict. It is known that, until recently, Iskander family complexes were not used in combat. Now, it seems, for the first time, they fired not at training targets, but at real targets in the form of enemy targets.
General view of the airbase: one of the OTRK in the parking lot, the second in an open area. Photo Dimmi-tomsk.livejournal.com
The high performance of the complex and its missiles can be a serious warning to the enemy. The ability to send a warhead of the required type over a distance of several hundred kilometers should be a good deterrent: hardly any enemy still capable of adequately assessing the situation will provoke Russian troops to use such powerful and accurate weapons. In addition, according to numerous estimates, Iskanders in Syria can influence the entire military-political situation in the Middle East.
The Iskander-M operational-tactical missile system is the latest domestic development of its class. The task of this technique is to defeat enemy ground targets at distances of up to 500 km using various warheads. The complex includes a self-propelled launcher and a transport-loading vehicle, missiles of two types, as well as several other units of auxiliary equipment. The 9P78-1 launcher is capable of simultaneously carrying two missiles of the required type, as well as launching them. All elements of the missile complex are built on the basis of special wheeled chassis, which allows them to demonstrate high mobility and relatively quickly reach the given launch area.
As a weapon, the Iskander-M complex uses missiles of two types, 9M723 and 9M728. The 9M723 product is a single-stage solid-propellant ballistic missile capable of carrying high-explosive, cluster and other warheads. A characteristic feature of the rocket is its quasi-ballistic flight path. Throughout the flight with the ascending and descending segments, the rocket has the ability to maneuver, which seriously complicates its interception. The maximum firing range is 480 km. The circular probable deviation does not exceed several tens of meters.
As part of the modernization of the complex, a cruise missile 9M728 or R-500 was developed.This product is equipped with a cruise turbojet engine and, according to some reports, receives an autonomous inertial control system with the possibility of course correction according to satellite navigation data. The missile can reach a speed of about 250 m / s and fly at a range of up to 500 km. The deviation from the aiming point is tens of meters. A characteristic feature of the Iskander cruise missile is its launch from a transport and launch container. Ballistic missiles 9M723, in contrast, are used independently and without additional containers.
To date, the 9K720 Iskander-M OTRK has been adopted and put into production. The industry has already produced eight brigade sets of the complex, transferred to the formations of all military districts. The last transfer of equipment took place in July this year - the new vehicles entered service with the 20th Guards Missile Brigade of the Eastern Military District. The production of new systems continues to this day. Over the next few years, the Ministry of Defense plans to re-equip all existing missile brigades using Iskander-M systems. According to existing plans, this process will be completed in 2018.