Is Russia’s Iskander-M worthy of the ‘sniper missile’ moniker?

The high accuracy of the Iskander-M on the Ukrainian battlefield has earned the weapon’s nickname “sniper missile”.

Russian media recently announced that their Iskander-M deserves to be called a “sniper missile” thanks to its high accuracy to the point of being able to slip through a window when launched from a distance of hundreds of kilometers.

“The Iskander-M operates with the precision of a sniper. A tactical ballistic missile of this type can pass through a window when launched from a distance of several hundred kilometers.”

“The Iskander-M carries a high-yield warhead, capable of destroying a building, warship or fortification on land,” the press service of state-owned technology corporation Rostec said in a statement.

Earlier, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov stated that an Iskander-M missile hit a Ukrainian train in the Dnepropetrovsk region, destroying more than 200 missile rounds and dozens of military equipment on the way to the front.

The Iskander-M Tactical Missile System (NATO reporting name SS-26 Stone) is designed to hit small targets and enemy locations within a range of up to 500 km. Russian team developed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union to replace the aging Scud rocket.

The Iskander-M is a solid-propellant single-stage guided missile. Targets can be located by satellites and aircraft, as well as by conventional intelligence gathering via artillery observers or from computer-scanned aerial photographs.

The missile can also retarget in flight via an optical guidance system controlled by encrypted radio transmission, assisted by an AWACS aircraft or even a drone.

In recent years, the Iskander-M has also been adapted for use as an anti-ship weapon as the Russians try to add a moving target attack function to it.

The Iskander-M has a range of up to 500 km, while its navigation system is reported to deliver within 10 – 30 meters of circle accuracy (CEP). Thus, it can be seen that Russia’s claim that the Iskander-M flew out of the window is an exaggeration.

The first successful launch of the missile took place in 1996, the Iskander-M was used in the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, on the Syrian battlefield, and in the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh War, it is said to have participated in the extensive war in Ukraine.

Although the Iskander-M system is exclusively used by the Russian Army, they have released a modified version of the Iskander-E, developed for export, which has a range of 280 km with a warhead weighing 480 kg.

The Iskander-E also has an inertial navigation system that helps it reach an accuracy of 30 – 70 m, significantly higher than the domestic version of the Iskander-M used by the Russian Army.

But even the above CEP index is considered difficult to achieve with Iskander-E, for example, Armenia has claimed that its projectiles have missed the target by up to 6 km, and the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine also said that only 40% of the Iskander-M missiles hit the target.

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