Introduction of the “Wisła” air defense system might not significantly decrease the threat of Russian short-range ballistic missile system Iskander-M due to the technological gaps of the air defense systems which are currently under consideration within procurement process for a new missile defense system in Poland – according to Dr. Karl J. Dahlem, Senior Expert on Air Defense in MBDA Germany, it is the most important challenge in terms of modernization of the Polish Armed Forces. German expert was a guest of honour of the Casimir Pulaski Foundation during the seminar titled ‘Russian ballistic missile capabilities: threats to Poland and required solutions’ that took place 17th April 2015.

Without reference to its technical specification the Iskander missile system is particularly dangerous due to its high mobility. According to available information the Iskander-M set (including transporter-erector-launcher vehicle as well as two 9P78 missiles) weighs 42 tons that enables Russian Armed Forces to relocate all components of the system within a few hours. Iskander system can conduct  high precision strikes and owing to the particular design of its missiles are less visible to radars. The Iskander missile system can carry both conventional and tactical nuclear warheads. It has to be emphasized that Russia is currently testing a new version of the Iskander system (Iskander-K) which can carry cruise missiles with effective range exceeding 500 km that clearly contravenes the Treaty on Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces.

High mobility of the Iskander launchers as well as current intelligence capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation would seem to be a potential threat not only for the land objects within the NATO member states and Finland territories but also for NATO vessels deployed in the Baltic Sea and the Barents Sea. As a particular threat can be perceived Russian Law Altitude Cruise Missiles (LACMs) such as Novator 3M14E or Kh-55SM carried by a few types of aircraft including Tu-160 Blackjack. However, certainly more challenging for modern missile air defense systems are supersonic and hypersonic High Altitude Cruise Missiles (HACMs) such as Kh-22 Raduga missiles – these warheads are primary equipment of the long-range strategic strike bombers Tu-22M.

MBDA expert has also noticed that diplomatic relations between Berlin and Moscow do not directly influence activity of the German Armed Forces as well as the intelligence. ‘Russia was always perceived by the intelligence services of the Federal Republic of Germany as a potential threat’ – dr. Karl J. Dahlem said.

Kremlin’s propaganda, that is using efficiently progress of the Russian engineers, has had a specific purpose of their activity for the past few years – to intimidate the Central and Eastern Europe countries. Despite the increasing capabilities of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces Poland should consequently implement the modernization programs within ‘the Polish Armed Forces Modernization Plan 2013-2022’. Given the decision concerning the crucial procurement for the “Wisła” air defense system as well as utility helicopters for the Armed Forces, hopefully Polish decision-makers will speed up works on other crucial modernization programs. It is worth emphasizing that Polish Ministry of Defense announced that until the end of 2015 Poland will choose a supplier of new attack helicopters (“Kruk” program) and finish the analytical phase of the “Narew” program that assumes procurement of 19 missile batteries of the short-range air defense system.

Rafał Lipka