The 9K720 "Iskander" was introduced to Russian Ground Forces in 2006 as a successor to the aging line of OTR-21" Tochka" mobile (self-propelled) short-ranged ballistic missile systems. The Tochka was a Soviet product of the Cold War years, introduced in 1976, and went on to see considerable service - particularly with Soviet-aligned Middle East customers. The Iskander family improves upon capabilities needed of short-ranged ballistic missiles on the modern battlefield and thus far it has been exported only to Armenia and Nigeria while having seen combat action in the ongoing Syrian Civil War (2011-Present).
The 9K720 Iskander is recognized by NATO forces as the SS-26 "Stone".
The weapon system is made up of two critical components: the missile itself and a large 8x8 wheeled transport vehicle. The transport vehicle has four well-spaced axles featuring oversized rubber roadwheels. The driving cab is set at the bow well ahead of the forward-most pair of wheels. The aft section of the truck is used to house the ballistic missile which rests horizontally when at rest and is erected vertically when the missile is readied for firing. A series of support arms are lowered about the chassis of the vehicle to stabilize the launch platform.
The missile is a single-stage, solid-propellant based weapon with an operational range out to ranges between 30 and 300+ miles and speeds hypersonically through the sky nearing Mach 6. The guidance unit is inertial-based, aided by GPS with terminal homing and accuracy is said to be within seven meters of the intended strike zone. The weapon weighs 8,400lb, has a length of 24feet, and a diameter of 3 feet. Its warhead can be variable, supporting the gamut of High-Explosive (HE), thermonuclear, sub-munition, Fuel-Air Explosive (FAE), and Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) types.
Variants include the "Iskander-M" which has been taken into service with the Russians and appears tobe the base production model. The "Iskander-K" supports the launching of cruise missile-type weapons of the Russian inventory for broader tactical value. The export version of the SS-26 is recognized as "Iskander-E" and features reduced complexity to help protect sensitive Russian technology and offers a range out to 280 kilometers.
Russian forces maintain a stock of about 136 launchers to date (2018). The weapon is thought to have been actively used in the Syrian Civil War by Russian forces operating there on behalf of the Assad government.
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