In this special news report by Defencyclopedia, we bring you an analysis of the recent cruise missile attacks conducted by the Russian Navy, against targets in Syria. This article will provide a proper insight into what assets were involved in the strike.
When we think of cruise missile attacks launched from a warship, the first thing that comes to our mind is this:
The US Navy’s amazing ability to launch hundreds of cruise missiles from its warships with great precision, is well-known and feared by its enemies. They have maintained the distinction of being the only Navy to launch long-range cruise missiles from surface ships, at land targets in combat (The Royal Navy has launched Tomahawk missiles from its submarines at land targets). But that’s changed as of October 7th 2015. We welcome the new entry into the short list, The Russian Navy!
In a totally unexpected move, the Russian Navy’s Caspian Sea flotilla was involved in a major mission, where 26 cruise missiles were launched at targets in Syria. In the words of the Russian defense Minister
“Four missile ships launched 26 cruise missiles at 11 targets. According to objective control data, all the targets were destroyed. No civilian objects sustained damage,”
The Ships Involved
The following ships of the Russian Navy’s Caspian Sea flotilla, took part in this strike.
Gepard Class : Dagestan
The Gepard class is a 2000 ton light-frigate which is in service with the Russian and Vietnamese navies. Of the 2 ships in service with the Russian Navy, only the Dagestan has the ability to launch the long-range Kalibr-NK cruise missile. It uses an 8 cell vertical launcher, located just behind it’s 76 mm gun. During this particular mission, Dagestan served as the flagship for the flotilla
Buyan-M Class : Grad Sviyazhsk , Uglich, Veliki Ustyug
This is a class of missile corvettes displacing just 950 tons, but still packs a powerful punch. It has the Positiv-M1.2 Active Phased Array radar as its primary sensor as well as the Anapa-M sonar suite. It is equipped with a 100 mm main gun and 8 vertical launch cells for the Klub family of cruise missiles. They were equipped with 8 Kalibr-NK cruise missiles for this particular mission. When they test fired the Kalibr-NK last year, nobody paid much attention as it was believed to be the 300 km range 3M54 Klub anti-ship missile.
The Missile Path
Since the cruise missile has a live warhead, most countries would object to it overflying their territory. The Russian Navy launched these missiles from the Caspian Sea, which is separated from Syria by Iraq and Iran. Hence they had to obtain permission for the Kalibr missiles to overfly their territory to reach Syria. The map below shows the path followed by the missiles.
The Kalibr-NK Missile
The missile in focus here is one that most of you will be probably be hearing for the first time. Russian missiles like the Granit, Moskit, Yakhont, Klub etc are very popular. But a missile which is a part of the Klub family, the Kalibr-NK, was not highlighted anywhere. The 3M14 Kalibr is equivalent to the American Tomahawk cruise missile in many parameters such as range, warhead and propulsion. It has a 2500 km range, a 450 kg (1000 pound) high-explosive warhead and a turbofan engine. It is powered initially by a rocket booster, which launches it from the ship and allows the missile to attain cruise speed. Then the boosters fall off and the turbofan engine kicks in, the wings unfold and the missile cruises like an aircraft for the rest of its journey. It flies just 50 m above the ground, following way-points and navigating via satellite. The missiles were programmed to fly over isolated areas so as to not pose any threat to the civilian population of Iran and Iraq.
Why use cruise missiles?
The Russian Air Force has 2 functional air bases in Syria and their combat aircraft were based close to the targets attacked by the cruise missiles. So why didn’t they use their aircraft instead? Why did they have to waste expensive cruise missiles on a target which could be destroyed by a few inexpensive bombs ?
It was never about hitting the target in the most cost-effective manner. It was all about sending a message to the US, that the Russian Navy has the capability to attack targets thousands of kilometers away using cruise missiles. Also by sending their smallest warships to launch these powerful missiles, they wanted to show that even their 1000 ton ships pack a very powerful punch and shouldn’t be discounted as insignificant.
So does it mean that Russia has land attack capability the US Navy? No. A single US Navy Arleigh Burke class destroyer can carry 96 Tomahawk cruise missiles if required, whereas Russia has around 8-10 warships that can carry 8 Kalibr missiles each. Since the US Navy has over 60 such destroyers, their land attack capability is 60 times greater than Russia’s. Interestingly, Russia doesn’t have a single destroyer in service which can carry the Kalibr-NK missile. This means that Russia’s power projection ability is limited to its immediate surroundings.
Slideshow of the launch sequence
These images have been obtained from the official video released by the Russian Ministry of Defense. The pictures have been labeled in numerical order.
The launching of these cruise missiles validates the capabilities of the Russian Navy. It also shows that Russia will no longer be a spectator in global events and is ready to get involved militarily. The war in Syria is also a perfect opporunity for Russa to test its untested arsenal in combat and see how they hold up in the real situations. So far it has proven to be fruitful as Russia has deployed their latest and most modern assets which are currently undergoing their acid test in combat. The situation is not expected to improve anytime soon and we will keep you updated with similar reports about significant events.
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