MOSCOW --- The Bastion (NATO reporting name: SS-C-5 Stooge) coastal defense missile battalions recently stationed on the Kuril Islands shall defend Russia’s territorial waters, straits and naval bases in the region, according to the Izvestia daily.
The Russian Defense Ministry has deployed Bal (SS-C-6 Sennight) and Bastion antiship missile systems on Iturup and Kunashir. They will beef up the defenses of the naval bases and on-shore infrastructure. In expert opinion, the advanced missile systems in the region indicate the Russian Federation’s resolve to retain the territory.
The Bastion coastal defense missile system developed and made by NPOMash in the town of Reutov eliminates surface ships and land threats at a range of 300-500 km. Until recently, it has been believed to be effective against ships alone. However, the advanced missile system took out several land targets in Syria on November 15, 2016 as part of the surgical strike delivered by the Russian Navy. The Kh-35 (AS-20 Kayak) missile-equipped Bal system from the Tactical Missiles Corporation deals with surface targets out to 300 km or so.
According to the Boyevaya Vakhta daily, the official newspaper of the Pacific Fleet, a reinforced Bastion battalion has gone on alert duty on Iturup Island, while a Bal battalion has set up shop on Kunashir nearby. Both units are organic to the 72nd Coastal Defense Missile Brigade activated in 2014.
According to NPOMash, a Bastion battalion includes eight launchers on the MZKT-7930 high-mobility chassis. Each launcher carries two Oniks (SS-N-26 Strobile) supersonic missiles ready for launch on warning. There also are launcher-loaders with reloads.
According to the Tactical Missiles Corporation’s website, the table of organization and equipment of the Bal battalion resembled that of the Bastion battalion much. However, each Bal launcher has eight missiles for the enemy, rather than two.
Expert Dmitry Boltenkov reminds that coastal defense missile battalions were stationed on the Kurils in Soviet times.
"Units equipped with the Redut [SS-C-1 Sepal] and Rubezh [SS-C-3 Styx] antiship systems were stationed on the Kuril Islands in the 1980s," Boltenkov says, "specifically at Simushir and Iturup. However, they were withdrawn from the islands and disbanded in the earlier 1990s."
According to former Russian Ambassador to Japan Alexander Panov, Russia’s reinforcement of its Kurils-based forces is a signal of its resolution to retain the southern Kurils, presumably.
"Most probably, the Japanese will turn the blind eye to the Russian Federation’s steps, because there have been positive dynamics in the bilateral relations," the diplomat says. "No one needs a row. It is possible, however, that they will ask for an explanation of the military build-up via the diplomatic channels. Tokyo is quite content with the status quo."
Panov stressed that the dynamics of the Russian-Japanese relations have been very positive.
"Premier Abe has a good strategic view and realizes that Japan should become more independent and needs close partnership with the Russian Federation for this purpose," the expert tells the Izvestia daily. "This will allow offsetting the growing influence of China and ensure an economic growth through cooperation with the Russian Far East."