Nestled in the heart of South Asia, Afghanistan, a nation marked by a complex history, finds itself entwined in the intricate web of global geopolitics. Against this backdrop, this article offers a succinct analysis of two pivotal ballistic missile systems within Afghanistan’s military arsenal: the Frog-7 and the Scud-B. Hailing from Russian origins, these missile systems have become integral components in shaping Afghanistan’s strategic military landscape, underscoring the nation’s efforts to navigate the challenges that have defined its history and position on the world stage.
Afghanistan’s Ballistic Missiles
The Frog-7, also known as the 9K52 Luna-M, is a short-range ballistic missile system that originated from Russia. It is a single-stage liquid propellant missile that uses inertial guidance. The missile comes in two variants, the 7A and 7B, with lengths of 30 feet and 31.3 feet, respectively. It has a diameter of 1.8 feet and weighs between 2.5 to 2.8 tons. The Frog-7 has a range of 70,000 meters and can deliver high explosive, chemical, or nuclear-capable warheads. The 7A variant is nuclear-armed with a 500-kg warhead, while the 7B variant has a 390-kg warhead.
The Frog-7 missile has an impact area of approximately 2.8 km long by 1.8 km wide. It was introduced in 1965 as a replacement for earlier Frog variants and was followed by the 7B variant in 1968. The missile is carried by the ZIL-135 truck-wheeled prime mover, which has an onboard crane for rapid load. The launcher has limited traverse, and the accuracy of the launch depends on the rocket’s ability to fly straight.
Each Frog-7 battery also has a trailer-carried D-band RMS long-range meteorological radar and a battery command-post vehicle. A typical Frog-7 battalion is equipped with two firing batteries, each with two transporter-erector-launcher vehicles and a D-band RMS long-range meteorological radar. The cruising range of the transporter-erector-launcher vehicle is 400 km. An Iraqi version of the missile, known as Laith-90, has an increased range of 90 km and a sub-ammunition warhead.
Afghanistan possesses the Scud-B missile, a short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) that originated from the Soviet Union. This missile has specific dimensions, measuring 11.25 m (36.9 ft) in length and 0.88 m (2 ft 11 in) in diameter, with a weight of approximately 5,900 kg (13,000 lb). It is equipped with a single-stage liquid-fuel propulsion system and inertial guidance. The Scud-B has a range of 300 km (190 mi) and is capable of carrying various warheads, including conventional high-explosive, fragmentation, and chemical VX warheads. The Scud-D variant incorporates DSMAC terminal guidance. It is launched from a MAZ-543 mobile launcher and has a circular error probable (CEP) of 450 m (1,480 ft).
Afghanistan possessed around 100 Scud-B missiles and at least four Scud mobile launchers. Additionally, the Taliban showcased Soviet-era Scud ballistic missiles during a military parade in Kabul. The Scud-B, also known as R-17 Elbrus or SS-1 Scud-B, was first operational in 1962 as an upgrade to the Scud-A. It became operational in other European and Middle Eastern countries by 1965. The Scud-B is one meter longer than the Scud-A, measuring slightly over 11 meters in length. It utilizes a liquid stage-single propellant engine and has a range of 300 km with a CEP ranging between 450-900 meters. The missile employs inertial guidance and can carry conventional, chemical, or nuclear payloads. It is launched from a mobile truck Transport-Erector-Launcher (TEL), with a firing sequence that typically takes one hour.
Initially, the Scud-B system was replaced in Russian forces by the SS-23, which offered greater range, accuracy, and reduced reaction and refire times. However, due to the INF Treaty, Moscow was compelled to revert to the Scud in the late 1980s. Eventually, Russia developed the SS-26 Iskander in the late 1990s as a replacement for the now-outdated Scud missile.