The New York Times reported that US intelligence officials discovered that the barrage of ballistic missiles launched by Russia on Ukraine was a “surprise”.
This “surprise”, as the newspaper describes it, was that the missiles could deceive air defense radars and thermal missiles, through a mysterious electronic munition with a length of less than half a meter.
An American intelligence official, who spoke to the newspaper without revealing his identity, described the ammunition, saying that it was fired in the form of a white arrow with an orange tail.
The official said that the Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles used by Russia fire this munition as soon as they try to target the missile from the air defense systems.
This munition emits radio signals to jam, can spoof enemy radars trying to locate the Iskander-M, and contains a heat source to attract incoming missiles.
This revelation may explain the difficulty Ukraine’s air defense forces face in intercepting Russia’s Iskander missiles, says the New York Times.
According to US government documents, the Iskander, powered by a solid-fuel rocket engine, can reach targets more than 300 km away. Each mobile launcher can fire two Iskander missiles before being reloaded.
Two weeks ago, images of the munitions circulated on social media that confused experts and intelligence analysts around the world, and many of them got it wrong, saying they were submunitions from cluster weapons based on their size and shape.
Richard Stevens, who spent 22 years in the British Army as a soldier specializing in explosive ordnance disposal, said he had seen a lot of Chinese and Russian munitions, “but I’ve never seen this before”.
Stevens, who later worked in southern Iraq, Africa and elsewhere, posted pictures of the mysterious munitions on a bomb disposal expert website that began in 2011, but they were also unfamiliar to them.
Russia used hundreds of massively powerful missiles and precision-guided ballistic missiles in the early days of its attack on Ukraine.
The Iskander-M is Russia’s only model of short-range ballistic missile in active military service.