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KALIBRating the foe: strategic implications of the Russian cruise missiles’ launch

By Vladimir KOZIN (Russia)

KALIBRating the foe: strategic implications of the Russian cruise missiles’ launch

Diplomacy, with all the conventions of its forms,
recognizes only real facts.
Charles de Gaulle

 

Last week the biggest event that took place in Syria as part of Operation Hmeymim was the use by the Russian Navy’s Caspian Flotilla of 26 seaborne land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs) that hit 11 Daesh and Jabhat al-Nusra military targets inside Syria, which were located about 1,500 km. away from the missile launch site:

 

A massive blow using Kalibr-NK LACMs was struck from the southwestern Caspian Sea. The objects of the attack were factories producing shells and explosives; command posts; ammunition, weapon, and fuel depots; and terrorist training camps in the Syrian Governorates of Raqqa, Aleppo, and Idlib. The cruise missiles, with a Circular Error Probable of about three meters, hit every one of their targets that had been set two days earlier.

The Dagestan, a missile-armed frigate with a displacement of about 2,000 tons, acted as the flagship of the Russian naval assault force accompanied by the small missile patrol ships the Veliky Ustyug, the Grad Sviyazhsk, and the Uglich (with a displacement of about 1,000 tons). Kalibr-NK missiles are extremely difficult to detect: when maneuvering, an LACM flies at high speed in stealth mode, meaning that it emits no signals that would allow it to be tracked by radar.

Russia informed the leaders of Iraq and Iran about the trajectory of these missiles. And in order to ensure the safety of civilians, the LACMs’ flight path was routed over an uninhabited area.

What are the military and political implications of the launch?

This was the first time that Russia’s armed forces had deployed this type of weapon in an actual combat situation – not during exercises – at targets that were so far away. The second important point is that every one of the 26 missiles that were launched struck their intended targets, none deviated from their previously calculated trajectory, not one experienced a technical glitch, and none fell to earth while still on its approach to the object of the attack. (CNN’s incorrect report about four missiles crashing in Iran has been discredited, not only by Russian and Iranian sources, but also by  State Department and  Pentagon speakers). Some targets were dealt a double blow.

Kalibr-NK reach zone from Caspian (right circle) and Black Sea area.

Kalibr-NK reach zone from Caspian (right circle) and Black Sea area.

Thanks to a successful Caspian Operation, the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces have added an entirely new and quite significant element to their air-combat capabilities in Syria. The most important feature of an LACM is that it strikes instantly and with unparalleled accuracy. They have a hugely demoralizing effect on the enemy, because even if the moment of launch is detected, he can not even predict in what geographic area they will hit. True to form, the US persists in demanding that Moscow ban such missiles, insisting that they violate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (but in fact that treaty prohibits only land-based LACMs).

This initial real-world use of long-range LACMs by Russia has significant strategic importance, because the carriers of such systems (surface vessels and submarines), stationed elsewhere in the ocean, can minimize the potential use of nuclear weapons and offensive antiballistic systems by those states that still consider the Russian Federation to be their “biggest potential enemy,” an “aggressor state,” and an “annexing state.” These high-impact weapons systems could be used for preemptive or retaliatory strikes with non-nuclear warheads.

Also, the landlocked Caspian Sea takes on strategic importance for Russia, because from there Russia can inflict surgical strikes using LACMs at the whole Middle East region, without risking countermeasures from NATO’s naval forces.

Now that the Russian armed forces have debuted such high-precision weaponry, the Pentagon can stop throwing away its money trying to build up its military options that are aimed squarely at Russia. In other words, there is no need to spend significant amounts to station American tactical nuclear weapons in Europe or to deploy its land- and sea-based antiballistic infrastructure in Romania and Poland – or in the Asia-Pacific region – since it is perfectly clear that from now on all of that will stay in the cross-hairs of not only Russian LACMs, but quite soon of some even more effective hypersonic, high-precision long-range weapons equipped with non-nuclear warheads.

One might hope that not only the Islamic State, but also Washington and NATO will arrive at immediate, tactical, and deeply strategic conclusions based on the Caspian Operation and will thus end their threats to use force against Russian aircraft and will understand that although they cannot be friends or “strategic partners” with Moscow, they must live in peace.

Vladimir Kozin is Head of Advisers’ Group at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and Professor of the Academy of Military Sciences of the Russian Federation.

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3 Comments For This Post

  1. GAM Says:

    Hopefully with Russia’s active entry in the region’s conflict, the twin threats of terrorism and insecurity can be eliminated. The terrorism and insecurity has prevailed too long in the region, thanks in large to the western role of interference in the region leading to destabilization and huge loss of lives. There is now some hope of peace thanks to the Russian entry.

  2. John Roberts of UK Says:

    The Russian Federation, by its actions, has displayed weapons capabilities that are at least as good as, if not better than, those of NATO and this, in itself, has had a quite salutary effect. It has now dawned on the United States of America (and even more so on its NATO allies within Europe) that the days of Russian military weakness are definitely over and that Russia’s need to complaisantly acquiesce to the unreasonable demands of the West and tolerate the insufferable arrogance of the American Empire are finally at an end.

    It is crucial to the Russian Federation that it prevents the destruction of the Syrian government and the breakup of Syria into hostile statelets at the hands of a country, the USA, that has been for the last 75 years an implacable enemy and that for the last 50 of those years pursued an undeviating policy of military encirclement and political-economic warfare against Russia that has now almost reached its end. Russia must stand firm and resist by all means necessary the existential threat that is, was, and continues to be, the USA.

  3. John McCarthy Says:

    And yet, mirages be damned, because no one has figured out what caused the complete electrical failure of a US warship in the Black Sea a few months back during the Crimean incident.

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