Russia’s Kalibr cruise missiles are believed to be the land-attack version the Klub family cruise missiles, yet, not much is currently known about these variations. The 3M-14T Kalibr-NK is a land-attack cruise missile carried by Russia’s surface vessels. Reports put its max range at 1,500 – 2,500 km. In October and November 2015, Russia launched a salvo of Kalibr missiles from the Caspian Sea at ISIS targets inside Syria. The Kalibr-NK cruise missiles were launched from a Russian Gepard-class frigate and Buyan-M-class corvettes and travelled 1,500 km to reach their targets. It has been reported it is capable of carrying a 450 kg conventional or (reported) nuclear warhead.
The antiship variants—designated the SS-N-27 Sizzler by NATO, or the 3M54T or 3M54K for the ship- and submarine-launched versions respectively—have shorter range, estimated between 270 and 410 miles, and are designed to skim low over the sea to avoid detection.
The Missile has vector-thrust nozzles on the ship-launched versions; the active-radar homing Kalibr missiles are also designed to perform evasive manoeuvres instead of making a straight-line approach. As they close within short range of an enemy ship, the missiles accelerate from their cruising speed of Mach 0.8 to Mach 3 and descend to just 4.6 meters in altitudes—making them extremely difficult for a ship’s antimissile defences to shoot down.
The land attack variants, the 3M14T and 3M14K (NATO designation SS-N-30A), appear to lack the boost to Mach 3 on terminal approach. In compensation, the inertia-guided missiles have a range of between one thousand and 1,500 miles. The third class of Kalibr missiles—the 91RT and 91RE—is used to deploy antisubmarine torpedoes to ranges of around thirty miles.
The Russian plan to equip its submarines and surface ships with the Kalibr cruise missile poses a severe threat to the U.S. ability to project force across the globe. The Russian ships that carried out the 2015 strike all had a displacement around or under 1,000 tons. The 26 Kalibr missiles reportedly travelled 1,800 km, a significant distance for missiles launched from such small vessels. The small size of the Russian ships that carried out the strike offers them unique strategic opportunities, not to mention the fact that these naval vessels are relatively inexpensive.
Kalibr missiles are currently deployed on Russian Navy Kilo-class submarines, as well as more modern types including the Akula, Lada and Yasen classes. They are also deployed on frigates and corvettes—but so far haven’t been fitted on larger vessels, though such upgrades may eventually take place. While a Russian Gepard-class frigate is armed with only eight Kalibr missiles, a missile-armed destroyer would be able to carry dozens.
If Russia transfers few conventional variant of Kalibr and BrahMos to Iran, then these will pose a severe threat to American and Israeli interest in that region.
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