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. Russia upgrades missile defenses
MOSCOW (AFP) Jan 28, 2005
Russia plans to install next generation air defense and powerful tactical missile systems later this year, strongly upgrading the country's defenses, Interfax reported Friday.

Russia plans to procure two missiles which have been in developing stages for years: the S-400 anti-missile weapon with a range of up to 400 kilometers (240 miles) and the Iskander system which is an upgrade of the Soviet-era Scud used in the Gulf War.

The Iskander came under attention earlier this month amid unconfirmed reports that Moscow was willing to sell the weapon to Israel's arch-rival Syria, with Russia denying the charges.

Oleg Belousov, Russia's deputy defense minister, said the armed forces would purchase six S-400 systems this year. He did not disclose the price, where these would be stationed or whether they might be put up for sale.

The Iskander -- also known as the SS-26 -- is the updated version of the Soviet-era Scud missile used by Saddam Hussein's Iraq against Israel during the Gulf War.

It was first tested by Russia in 1996, has a range of just under 300 kilometers (180 miles), and reportedly can easily overcome existing air defense systems.

Each missile has two 480-kilogram (1,055-pound) warheads that in tests hit targets with an accuracy of 20 meters (yards).

The missile has no NATO equivalent. It is extremely effective because its launch pad is mobile and the missile can be guided through bad weather by satellite or plane radar, according to the Federation of American Scientists arms watchdog group.

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