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Russian military to get Iskander system on schedule, says official

Iskander missile system. RIA Novosti photo

MOSCOW (BNS): The Iskander tactical short-range missile systems will be delivered on time to the Russian military, a senior official said here on Tuesday.

Dismissing reports that the recent credit crunch may hit delivery schedules, Lt Gen Sergei Bogatinov, commander of the Missile Forces and Artillery, said that targets would be met.

However, RIA Novosti quoting Kommersant daily said that the military had been hit by delays in Iskander deliveries since 2005. The agency said that a training battalion in Southern Russia's testing ground Kapustin Yar is the only unit armed with four Iskander systems so far. The planned brigades in Kaliningrad require 60 systems as well as other equipment.

Meanwhile, Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport said that it was not looking at exporting Iskander systems until Russia's Armed Forces had been fully supplied with them. A number of countries, including Syria, the UAE, Malaysia and India have evinced keen interest in acquiring the Iskander systems.

Earlier, this month Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had said that Moscow would deploy Iskander-M systems (SS-26 Stone) with a range of 500 km (311 miles) in the Kaliningrad exclave, sandwiched between NATO members Lithuania and Poland, to "neutralise if necessary" a proposed US missile defence system in Central Europe.

Medvedev's move sparked a wave of criticism in Europe, while some military analysts in Russia expressed doubts over the reliability of Moscow's response to Washington's missile shield plans.

The report said the relatively new Iskander missiles have only been subject to test firing. Although the tests were reported to have been successful, some experts believe it will be impossible to set up the five proposed Iskander brigades in Kaliningrad over the next 4-5 years due to a lack of production facilities and a workforce shortage, the agency added.

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