April 1, 2016

Iskander missile launcher spotted in Syria


Russia has deployed at least one Iskander missile system to its Humaymim Air Base in Syria, although it is unclear if it is the ballistic or cruise missile variant.

The Iskander transporter erector launcher (TEL) was spotted in footage broadcast by Russia's Zvezda TV channel on 27 March. The system could be seen on the east side of the runway at Humaymim as an An-124 transport aircraft took off from the base.

The TEL, which is 13 m long, can be seen at the same location in Airbus Defence and Space satellite imagery taken on 20 March.

Like numerous other Russian military systems, the Iskander is mounted on an 8x8 MZKT-7930 chassis. However, the one at Humaymim does not match any other known systems, including the K-300P Bastion-P anti-ship missile system, which is in Syrian service. The superstructure needed to accommodate the Yakhont missiles launched by the Bastion-P is notably longer than that of the Iskander.

The Iskander-M that is in service with the Russian Ground Forces carries two tactical ballistic missiles that are designed to penetrate ground-based missile defence systems. Although the Iskander-M missile is often said to have a range of 500 km, it must officially be less than that to conform to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. It can be armed with submunition warheads that allow it to neutralise dispersed targets such as artillery and air defence batteries.

There have been reports since 2005 of Syrian interest in acquiring the Iskander-E, the 280 km-range export version of the Iskander-M, and even claims that some systems have been delivered. There has been no confirmation from more reliable sources of any such transfers taking place and Russian officials have consistently said there is no intention to sell the Iskander-E to Syria, at least until deliveries to the Russian military have been completed.

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