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Russia shifts from Iskander missile to Tornado-S MLRS to treat Ukrainian targets.

| 2023

In an article from Sakshi Tiwari in The EurAsian Times, it has been revealed that Russia is reevaluating its approach to targeting Ukrainian sites with ballistic missiles. The Iskander ballistic missiles, which have been regularly used for such purposes, are now facing competition from the Tornado-S multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) due to its cost-effectiveness and suitability for targeting lower-value sites. According to Bekhan Ozdoyev, the Industrial Director of Rostec's conventional weapons, munitions, and special chemical compounds complex, the extended range of Tornado-S munitions makes it a viable alternative for situations where the use of Iskander tactical missiles would be excessive.
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The Tornado-S MLRS possesses the capability to target both large areas and individual targets with its high-precision munitions (Picture source: Russian MoD)

Ozdoyev emphasized that the Tornado-S MLRS possesses the capability to target both large areas and individual targets with its high-precision munitions. He confirmed that further development of this system is ongoing, highlighting that the Tornado-S is now approaching the tactical missile system class, thanks to the improved range of its guided rocket-propelled bombs, which now reach 90 to 120 kilometers. This extended range allows the Tornado-S to effectively engage targets that were previously considered beyond its reach. Ozdoyev stated, "These munitions could be used to destroy targets where using the Iskanders would be excessive. The accuracy of the Tornado-S is very high, and the warhead’s power is enough to hit almost any, even a seriously protected facility."

The context for this shift in strategy arises from reports indicating that Russian forces have increased their use of Iskander missiles. A new tactic involves firing multiple Iskanders at a single location when Ukrainian soldiers gather for rescue operations, catching them off guard and resulting in higher casualties. Previously, Ukrainians had become accustomed to expecting only one Iskander attack, which allowed them to adjust their battlefield positioning.

Nevertheless, the recent intensified use of Iskander missiles has raised questions about their availability. Some Russian Telegram groups, claiming ties to the defense and military sectors, have suggested that Russia's manufacturers have successfully increased production and are no longer significantly affected by Western sanctions, contradicting earlier reports of shortages.

While it remains unclear why Russia is considering substituting Iskander ballistic missiles with the Tornado-S MLRS, military analysts following the Ukraine War speculate that such a decision might be aimed at preserving Iskander missiles for high-value targets. This could be due to the fact that Iskander missile production relies on components procured from Western sources, and acquiring these components may become increasingly challenging due to ongoing U.S. sanctions.

The Tornado-S, comparable to the American HIMARS used by Ukraine, is a Multiple Launch Rocket System employed to strike enemy targets within their territories. Reports from last year suggested that Russia was increasing Tornado-S MLRS production, potentially indicating an intention to rely more on it for targeting objectives within its reach.

Ozdoyev also mentioned the possibility of constructing robotic vehicles from Smerch and Tornado-S MLRS in the future. This development aligns with Russia's focus on artificial intelligence and autonomy in military operations, as the ongoing conflict continues to witness technological innovation on the battlefield.

In summary, Russia's consideration of shifting from Iskander missiles to the Tornado-S MLRS for targeting Ukrainian sites reflects a strategic adjustment driven by cost-effectiveness and extended-range capabilities. The evolving dynamics of the conflict in Ukraine, potential shortages of Iskander missiles, and advancements in MLRS technology are key factors influencing this decision. Additionally, the prospect of robotic vehicles derived from MLRS systems underscores Russia's commitment to advancing military technology.

Defense News November 2023

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