Massive Attack
Cruise missiles are the weapon of choice for deep strikes as development of new types continue

Recent events in the Middle-East, which have seen deep strikes being undertaken by NATO countries and Russia, have again highlighted the usefulness of cruise missiles to strike at targets deep into enemy territory. Combat operations in Syria are showing the advances in cruise missile technology and new weapons have also emerged.

Upgraded Russian Tupolev Tu-95MS long-range bomber aircraft have played a key role in Russian combat operations in the
Middle-East. The new Kh-101 cruise missile’s large size means that it can be carried only on Tu-95MS and Tu-160
strategic bombers.

Cruise missile strikes have been conducted by ships based in the Mediterranean and Caspian Seas at distances of up to 1500 km; while a 29-aircraft strong, bomber aviation fleet has made strikes from the zone of the Caspian Sea. Tu-160 heavy bombers have undertaken combat operations over the Mediterranean Sea in 13,000 km long sorties. Over 101 air and sea-based cruise missiles have been launched by Russian forces and in a single cruise missile strike alone, Russian forces announced that 600 militants had been killed in a strike on facilities near Deir ez-Zor.

Russian combat operations in Syria have also resulted in the use of the Kh-101 long range cruise missile, the first time the new missile has been used in combat. Fitted with a conventional warhead, Russian media outlets have reported the range of the new cruise missile at about 5,500 km, though the ranges reported by Western media have been lower. The missile is carried on Tupolev Tu-160 and Tu-95 bombers and images released by the Russian MoD, have shown the Kh-101 being dropped from long range bombers. The Kh-101 is fitted with a 400 kg warhead and the guidance system makes use of a combined Inertial Navigation System (INS) and GLONASS system. The Kh-101 will replace the previous generation Kh-55 which carries a smaller warhead.

Another cruise missile that made its appearance in Russian combat operations over Syria is the Kalibr (3M-14s) ship-launched cruise missile. Public details are scarce, though range is estimated in excess of 2000 km. The low flying cruise missile can attack targets at land or sea, with great precision and is a recent entry into the Russian Arsenal. Russia has proven to be especially assertive militarily this year and has conducted a far increased tempo of cruise missile launches both in training and combat operations. According to Russia’s ministry of defence (MoD), “In the course of the whole training year, missile crews of the Northern Fleet have performed successful launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles Sineva and Bulava, cruise missiles Granit, Moskit, Malakhit, Progress, Termit and Kalibr.” In 2015 alone, Russian armed force conducted 25 sea and land-based cruise missile firings. Launches were performed from nuclear and diesel submarines, surface ships as well as coastal launch zones.

The pace of development of cruise missiles is also continuing apace with combat aircraft development. Missile major MBDA has seen the first successful release of its Storm Shadow, conventionally armed, stealthy, long-range stand-off precision missile from a Eurofighter Typhoon Instrumented Production Aircraft (IPA) last month. Missile integration with the Typhoon’s complex weapon system was successfully accomplished and, “the trials also verified the interface of the missile with the weapon system for pre-launch checks, demonstrated post-launch safe separation and the subsequent commencement of missile flight,” MBDA said in a statement.

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