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Is Russian Kalibr cruise missile superior to the US Tomahawk?


With the introduction of the Kalibr cruise missile into service, Russia broke the monopoly of the US long-range attack cruise missile. Even Russia’s Kalibr missile has anti-ship capabilities, a feature that the US is currently developing.

Tomahawk cruise missile
Tomahawk cruise missile

Since the early 1990s, the US has launched hundreds of Tomahawk cruise missiles from ships and submarines, to strike targets in the Middle East, North Africa, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.

The Tomahawk cruise missile, which has a subsonic speed (about 890 km/h), is close to the speed of a civilian airliner. However, Tomahawks can hit targets up to 1,500 km away, making them a popular (albeit expensive) offensive weapon, without endangering the US military.

However, the US monopoly on this type of missile was lost, when on October 7, 2015, the Russian Gepard-class frigate Dagestan and three Buyan-class corvettes in the Caspian Sea, launched a series 26 six Kalibr cruise missiles from the ship’s Vertical Launch System.

26 Kalibr missiles with a length of up to 9 meters, flew over the territory of Iran and Iraq with a total distance of 1,700km, before hitting 11 targets in Syria; The missile hit a series of bases belonging to ISIS terrorists and the Free Syrian Army rebels.

Russian Kalibr cruise missile
Russian Kalibr cruise missile

Although Pentagon sources said that four of the 26 missiles launched, had engine problems and crashed in Iran, but there were no casualties. However, this is still a demonstration of the ability to attack long-range, which previously belonged only to the US.

Then on December 9, 2015, the improved Kilo-class diesel-electric submarine Rostov-na-Donu launched a series of Kalibr missiles from underwater, at targets in Syria; marks the combat debut of modern Russian submarine force ships. In 2016, Russian frigates in the Mediterranean attacked Syrian rebels in Aleppo and Idlib with at least three Kalibrs.

In fact, at that time, Russian warplanes operating over Syrian territory could easily carry out airstrikes against these targets at a much lower cost. Even many long-range bombers can fly directly from Russia to Syria to bomb and return.

However, by flaunting its long-range naval strike capabilities, Moscow not only advertises its technological prowess, but also advertises the Kalibr missile capabilities to foreign customers who can choose to purchase a shorter range variant, known as the Klub missile.

There are more than a dozen different variants in the Kalibr family of missiles, varying in launchers, ranges, warhead configurations and speeds, varying in length from 6 to 9 meters, but all carrying a 450kg warhead. or nuclear warheads.

The anti-ship variants, designated by NATO as SS-N-27 Sizzler, or 3M54T or 3M54K for surface- and submarine-launched versions respectively, have a shorter range, estimated at 500-760 km. , and is designed to glide over the sea to avoid detection.

With a thrust vectoring nozzle design along with active radar, surface-launched versions of Kalibr anti-ship missiles can perform evasive maneuvers, instead of approaching in a straight line.

When the Kalibr missile closes within a short distance of the enemy ship, the missile accelerates from a cruise speed of Mach 0.8 to Mach 3, and descends to an altitude of only 4.6 meters; very difficult, for the anti-missile defense system of the ship.

The ground attack variants, 3M14T and 3M14K (NATO designation SS-N-30A), do not appear to accelerate to Mach 3 on approach, but use inertial guidance, which is effective. GPS-tuned, with a range of up to 2,400km.

The third Kalibr cruise missiles, the 91RT and 91RE, are used to launch anti-submarine torpedoes at a range of about 50km; The missile will launch the torpedo to the position to approach the enemy ship, then the missile will be separated, at this time the new torpedo will start, find the target.

The Kalibr missile is currently deployed on Kilo-class submarines of the Russian Navy, as well as more modern types including the Akula, Lada and Yasen classes. They are also deployed on warships, including frigates and corvettes.

A Russian Gepard-class frigate can carry eight Kalibr missiles, while a destroyer can carry up to 40 Kalibr missiles; but so far, Russia has mainly deployed Kalibr missiles on small ships; demonstrates the Russian Navy’s strategy of “dispersing” firepower.

The export variant of the Kalibr missile, the Klub, has its range reduced from 200-300 km to comply with the Missile Technology Control Treaty, to which Russia is a member. The treaty bans the export of missiles with ranges exceeding 300km.

The Klub missile is currently deployed on Kilo-class submarines of the navies of China, India, Algeria, Vietnam and possibly Iran, as well as six Indian Talwar-class frigates. China has also developed the longer-range YJ-18 cruise missile, which is believed to be a partial clone of the Klub.

It is possible that an air-launched version of the Klub is being developed, for use on the Tu-142 maritime patrol aircraft, currently in service with the Russian and Indian Air Force.

Ground-launched anti-ship versions may also have been developed; It is worth noting that the version can be hidden in a cargo box. This Klub-K variant can be transported on civilian ships, cargo ships or trucks, making it difficult to identify and destroy weapons from a distance. However, there is no confirmed information yet.

Although Russia still produces many other types of naval cruise missiles, the Kalibr is likely to remain the mainstay of Russia’s long-range naval strike capability for many years to come.

In theory, the ground attack version offers the same performance as the American Tomahawk; but with the features of the anti-ship version (speeding up on target to Mach 3), making the Kalibr a dangerous anti-ship weapon.

Although the Russian Navy is far behind the US Navy in terms of the number of warships, the ability to effectively deploy long-range weapons on ships of low tonnage also makes US naval planners think a lot.


About Tufail Bakshi

I cover global military news, focusing on identifying technologies of strategic importance to aviation, aerospace and defense. I was Born in baramula, Kashmir ,I did my graduation from Kashmir University, I aspire in becoming a military journalist.
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