Russia Sustaining Expanded Production of Iskander-M Tactical Missile Systems

The Russian state run missile system specialist enterprise KB Mashinostroyeniya has continued to maintain production of the 9K720 short range tactical ballistic missile for the Iskander-M system at a much increased wartime rate, as the country continues to expand its arsenal and to use the assets in considerable quantities in the Ukrainian theatre. Chief Designer at the KB Mashinostroyeniya Design Bureau Valery Kashin stated regarding the expansion that “the missiles are being produced in much larger quantities than in previous years.” Deliveries in 2023 were made at several times the rates seen in all preceding years, with the design bureau’s CEO Sergey Pitikov having stated accordingly at the Army-2023 Forum in August that year that “supplies surged by several times.” An air launched counterpart to the 9K720 produced on the same production lines, the Kinzhal ballistic missile, saw output quintuple. Increased supplies of 9K720 missiles has allowed Russian units to employ them far more widely, and to conduct ‘double strikes’ to significantly increase casualties among Ukrainian frontline units. 

Each Iskander-M brigade is comprised of 51 vehicles, including 12 transporter erector launchers, 12 reload vehicles, 11 command vehicles, 14 personnel support vehicles, one data preparation vehicle, and one service and repair vehicle. Each can deploy 48 missiles simultaneously and quickly re-equip if near to missile storage facilities. Brigades are divided between three battalions, each with two batteries of two launchers. Although heavily relied on since the outset of hostilities in February 2022, the Iskander-M gained renewed publicity after it was used on March 9 to destroy Ukraine’s most costly military asset, an American MIM-104 Patriot missile system, as well as a Soviet S-300 air defence system, with footage showing both being engaged in the disputed Donetsk region. The loss of these very high value and scarce assets paved the way for expanded use of Russian air power in the region. In parallel to expanded Iskander-M production, a number of sources including multiple reports from U.S. government sources have indicated that Russia has further increased its capacity to launch short range ballistic missile attacks by acquiring North Korean KN-23 systems. These have many similar characteristics and similar appearance to the Iskander-M, but have significantly longer ranges and in the case of the particularly large KN-23B variant also much higher payloads.