The Russian Army has adopted a new strategic for launching strikes on Ukrainian positions using its Iskander-M ballistic missile systems, which involves simultaneous launches of multiple missiles at a designated target. Such attacks involve subsequent follow up strikes executed after calculated intervals, which have reportedly been successful in catching Ukrainian forces off guard and maximising casualties after Ukrainian personnel congregate at a point of impact. Although Russian forces initially suffered from strain on stocks of 9K720 missiles for their Iskander-M systems, an increase in production to several times pre-war rates has made missiles highly ready availably allowing for new tactics to be utilised which involve the expenditure of more missiles. Growing perceptions that Ukrainian forces are close to breaking point could also have increased the incentive to maximise casualties at a time of flagging morale and increasing supply shortages despite the additional costs this incurs for the Russian Army.
Alongside ground based air defence systems such as the S-400, the Iskander-M is an asset class where Russia enjoys tremendous advantages in productive capacity over rivals in the West or in East Asia allowing its defence sector to not only keep up with wartime expenditures, but also to expand the numbers in service while also continuing exports. The system has provided a vital means of asymmetrically countering NATO forces to compensate for Russia’s more limited air-to-surface strike capabilities due to its smaller air force and lack of large numbers of fifth generation fighter aircraft. The missiles fired pose particular challenges to enemy defences not only due to their ability to carry specialised penetrative warheads, but also due to their semi ballistic depressed trajectories which include apogees of 50km and the ability to conduct extensive in flight manoeuvres making them extremely difficult to intercept. The Iskander-M is closely based on the Soviet OTR-23 Oka, which the Soviet Army decommissioned under American pressure following the Cold War’s end, with the enhanced Oka-U variant in particular having capabilities and an appearance near indistinguishable from those of the new Russian system.