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As Russia launches Kalibr cruise missiles at terrorists, operation in Syria becomes more comprehensive

Caspian Sea-based Russian surface action group has launched cruise missiles at targets of terrorists in Syria. At the night of October 7, Russia’s warships launched Kalibr NK sea-based cruise missiles from the southeast of the Caspian sector and destroyed infrastructural facilities of the “Islamic State” and other terrorist groups in the territory of Syria. The targets were the plants for manufacturing shells and explosive devices, command centers, ammunition dumps and training camps in the provinces of Aleppo, Raqqa and Idlib (1).

The attack group’s flagship was Dagestan missile ship able to fulfill tasks at a distance of 4,000km from the naval base. Small-sized missiles ships of the Caspian flotilla - Grad Sviyazhsk, Uglich and Veliky Ustyug - launched cruise missiles Kalibr NK against IS targets.

The Russian Navy launched 26 cruise missiles at 11 targets in Syria. The results confirmed the high efficiency of the missiles for long distances – almost 1,500km. The high-precision missile system (delivery error is no more than 3m) is capable of destroying targets at any time and in all weather conditions. Kalibr NK cruise missiles fly at the altitudes of up to 50 meters following the terrain, the Russian Defense Ministry explains.

Preparations for the operation in Syria, starting from deployment of troops and equipment from the permanent basing site to western Syria up to the launch of the airstrikes of September 30, took about 1.5 month. It took the Russian Navy several days to launch missiles from the Caspian Sea. The operative services of the General Staff and Defense Ministry of Russia carried out a smooth, precise work in close cooperation with foreign partners, given the geographic distance of the region of missile launching from the final targets. The missiles flew over Iran and Iraq to reach the targets in Syria. Although Kalibr NK cruise missiles fly at the altitudes of 50m following terrain, a coordinated work was carried out with the civil and military services of Iran and Iraq.

The Defense Ministry of Russia unveiled some details of the preparatory phase of the operation already on October 7. The Russian reconnaissance group disclosed a range of important facilities of the militants. Those facilities were subject to immediate destruction. To ensure the security of the civilian population, an unpopulated area was chosen as the transit corridor. All the targets were thoroughly studied basing on the spatial and electronic intelligence data, drone videos, and radio intercept information. They used also data of the Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi intelligence groups, including human sources, said Andrey Kartapolov, the head of the General Operative Department, Russian Armed Forces General Staff.

Only verified targets are attacked after long and thorough preparations, information analysis, and computer generated air strikes. The Russian military chose a very accurate algorithm for generating and checking air strikes. It makes a real difference comparing to the often-irresponsible operation of the American aviation in the Middle East. The world has once again made sure of that fact after the U.S. Air Force hit the hospital of the Medicins Sans Frontieres in Kunduz, Afghanistan.

The air strikes of the Russian Navy at the bases of terrorists in Syria can be reduced to several military and political elements. Not only they highlight the situation with the military goals of the Russian operation, but also the distribution of forces and interests in the diplomatic and political aspects of the Syrian crisis.

First, missiles were launched from the Caspian Sea, though Black Sea-based warships of the Russian Navy (led by guided missile cruiser and Black Sea flagship “Moscow”) are on combat duty near Syria’s cost in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is hard to escape a conclusion that Russia has demonstrated its Western and Middle East partners its attack potential at long distance from the theater of operation. Destruction of target from maritime platforms at long distances is so far considered one of the symbols of U.S. military power. No other super power has launched such destructive missile attacks in military conditions during the last years. The launch of 26 cruise missiles at the distance of 1.500km was unprecedented.

Open military sources reported earlier that the above warships of the Caspian Flotilla were armed with missiles able to hit target at a distance of up to 300km. It was truth, but they were speaking about the demonstrative model that Russia offered its potential foreign clients. It appears that for other purposes, including in the fight against the international terrorism, Russia has much more powerful means. For instance, the Russian fleet’s 3M-14 missile of the Kalibr family can have also a nuclear warhead. The conventional model can hit the target at a distance of more than 1,500km, while the model with the nuclear warhead hits the target at the distance of more than 2,500km. The conventional model has a warhead of 400kg. It can destroy management centers of the adversary, communication centers and ammunition depots. Actually, it is the targets the Russian Navy flotilla missiles hit from the Caspian Sea.

On October 7, Kalibr NK missiles were successfully tested in Syria.

It turns out that Russia has elements of global military power, along with strategic nuclear forces, not just “on paper,” though many Western military experts and some of their Russian colleagues tried to persuade outsiders of the opposite.

Acting from the Caspian Sea, Russia strengthens new counter-terrorism coalition emerging in the Middle East with its military and political support. The new coalition is not as large as the U.S.-led one that has been trying to destroy the “Islamic State” targets without success for over a year. However, it has achieved success in a short period of time. Jointly with Iran, Iraq and Syria, Russia creates an alternative to the obscure and questionable actions of U.S. and its allies in the region. At the same time, the new coalition is open for cooperation with potential partners in the fight against terrorism.

We are so far at the initial stage of establishing that coalition. An intelligence information center has been opened in Baghdad to fight IS with the support of the above four countries. Russia’s Airspace Force was deployed in Latakia via the same route – Russia-Iran-Iraq-Syria. The world saw the result on October 7 at night.

“Division of labor” in the new anti-ISIL coalition in Syria is taking shape. Operating guided cruise missiles from various platforms, Russia confuses, disorganizes and demoralizes the adversary in the territory of Syria. Let’s give this strategy a conditional name “3D,” it being understood that the military operation will reach a crucial point only if the highly effective ground forces are involved in it too. It is yet to be ascertained if the Iranian units will join the operation with more active measures and how long it will take the Syrian Army to concentrate forces for launching effective offensive. However, it is obvious that there will be no Russian infantry in Syria, only some volunteers.

Russia’s Airspace Force and Navy have confused the adversary dramatically with such large-scale maritime-aerospace operation. First signs of disorganization and demoralization are evident. It is extremely difficult to identify the adversary in the intricate mosaic of terror in Syria and amid hysteria of the West and some Middle-Eastern countries. That is why it is hard to speak of the next stages of the “3D” strategy. The attacks have impeded the mobility of the militants, as they lose offensive capacity. Nevertheless, it bears repeating that the military operation will reach a crucial point only if the highly effective ground forces are involved in it. In addition, Bashar al-Assad’s troops and the insurgent groups have many armored vehicles and missile systems.

The aviation of Damascus is so far combat efficient, but the military hardware of Syrian army is worn-out and the manpower is physically exhausted. Russia operates with filigree precision amid simultaneous work of the native diplomats and politicians. The airstrikes against the terrorists from the Caspian Sea came in time with the statements on Moscow’s readiness to cooperate with the moderate Syrian opposition, of course, if the existence of such opposition is proved with facts. According to the stand expressed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Defense Ministry is ready to assist the combined efforts of the governmental troops in Syria and the “Free Syrian Army” in fighting IS and other terrorist groups and coordinating their actions with the Russian Air Force.

Such a statement came from Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson on October 7. “Following Putin's orders, the Foreign Ministry is now also seeking to establish contacts with the Free Syrian Army (FSA) leadership to discuss the possibility of their involvement into the process of political settlement of the Syrian crisis,” Zakharova said. In her words, Moscow will carry on with contacts with “the whole spectrum of Syrian opposition.”

Judging from the video footage of the operation from the southwest of the Caspian Sector, Russia’s military-industrial complex has got an opportunity to demonstrate its potential foreign clients the whole spectrum of its new weapons and military hardware. The operation in Syria enabled Russia to test a series of new weapons. For instance, the advanced airborne radio-electronics Krasukha-4 has been pulled to Syria. One of the most advanced high-tech products of the Russian military-industrial complex is deployed at the military base Khmeimim.

The Russian military operation in Syria has become more comprehensive since October 7. Moscow has demonstrated its capacity to hit terrorists not only using the Airspace Force airborne tactical formation deployed at the Khmeimim airfield in Latakia, Syria. New deadly air strikes were launched at the targets of the Islamic militants from maritime platforms at long distances from the final targets in the territory of Syria. It was the Army’s gift to the Supreme Commander on his birthday. Nevertheless, much is yet to be done.

The Defense Ministry of Russia notified beforehand about the plans to increase the intensity of air strikes at the positions of the “Islamic State,” “Jabhat al-Nusra” and other terrorist groups. It warned and now demonstrates its capacity.

(1) Russia’s Navy hit the mounting base of the militants in the northern provinces in Syria. The travel time from Idlib to Latakia, where Russia’s Airspace Force airborne tactical formation is deployed, is less than two hours by transport vehicle. If the governmental troops lose control over that northwestern region of the country, the militants will come closer to the Khmeimim airfield.

EADaily’s Middle East Bureau

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