Strike Highlights Russia’s Advances in Cruise Missile Technology

Russia's recent cruise missile strike in Syria - despite reports that some wayward munitions landed in Iran - demonstrates the country's advances in developing the technology, an expert said. (Photo RT / YouTube / Russian Defence Ministry) Russia's recent cruise missile strike in Syria - despite reports that some wayward munitions landed in Iran - demonstrates the country's advances in developing the technology, an expert said. (Photo RT / YouTube / Russian Defence Ministry)

Russia’s recent cruise missile strike in Syria — despite reports that some wayward munitions landed in Iran — demonstrates the country’s advances in developing the technology, an expert said.

“It’s still good news for the Russians because they have actually used these new cruise missiles in combat for the first time and demonstrated their capability,” Paul Schwartz, a senior associate in the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in an interview with

“The fact that four of them went off track … does not negate to a major extent the fact that most of these seem to have hit their target,” he added. “It shows that the underlying technology seems to be sound.”

Four Russian naval vessels in the Caspian Sea on Wednesday launched a total of 26 cruise missiles at 11 targets affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, according to an article from the Russian news organization RT.

The ships were identified in the report as the Gepard-class frigate Dagestan and the Buyan-M-class corvettes Grad Sviyazhsk, Uglich and Veliky Ustyug. They’re armed with Kalibr-NK launchers, which can launch missiles capable of hitting targets at distances of up to about 1,550 miles (2,500 kilometers).

Monitoring by U.S. military and intelligence assets concluded that at least four missiles crashed as they flew over Iran, according to a news report Thursday from CNN.

The Russian Defense Ministry, however, denied the report and said photographs and real-time video from drones show all the missiles — a long-range subsonic land-attack version of the Klub family — hit their intended targets, according to anther article on RT.

Even if some of the missiles missed their mark, the fact that many of them struck targets in Syria shows that Russia has closed the gap between the U.S. in conventional defense technology, Schwartz said.

“It’s important to remember that even the U.S. — with its very long history of using the Tomahawk dating to the Gulf War — it took us quite a while to become proficient with these missiles,” he said. “The Russians for some time have been wanting to upgrade to the precision-strike weapons that the U.S. has long enjoyed a monopoly on with the Tomahawk cruise missile.”

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union developed the RK-55 Granat land-based cruise missile, which carried a nuclear warhead, but the weapon was never fielded due to restrictions under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. It had also previously developed the anti-ship cruise missile P-700 Granit.

“The newer system is superior — better guidance system, lower flight profile, it’s more reliable,” Schwartz said. “It represents some of the many things the Russians have learned since the Cold War.”

Russia has also made significant technological gains in air defense systems, U.S. military officials say. The country in recent years has deployed an increasing number of higher quality surface-to-air missile systems and other defensive measures, particularly in and around Kaliningrad and Crimea — which it annexed from the Ukraine last year — to limit the ability of U.S. and NATO aircraft to enter its airspace.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • Robbie

    Really?! Four of 26 of Russia’s most modern cruise missiles pranging hugely distant from their intended targets is a demonstration of incompetence. It’s an embarrassing failure. Hardly something to inspire fear and awe….

    • FormerDirtDart

      Yeah, maybe in like 1980 an ~16% failure rate would seem not completely terrible. But, in 2015, not so much.

      Whole article makes me think it was done very early after info of the strike was released, and set to publish automatically today. Long before word came out about the four missiles going down well short.

    • lambul Khalik

      It’s propogasnda,they (all the missiles hit their targets!

      • Retired Army

        The Russians were targeting Iran?

    • Alto

      It’s called a fail propaganda out of desperation. Hair pulling, nail biting, insomnia and such…

      CNN refers to “Anonymous Washington officals”? LOL Next time they should try harder lol It just clearly shows all the missiles hit their targets.

      • Retired Army

        And how would you know what the targets were, and where each missile landed?

        People in the know, and with the where withall, disagree with you.

    • come

      We fired 75 Tomahawk missiles at Osama bin Laden’s Bora Bora Cave. Al Qaeda said 40 were duds, and bin Laden sold these duds to China for 10 million dollars.

      • IronV

        We didn’t use Tomahawks at Tora Bora (Not Bora Bora). We used B-52s. Carpet bombing amongst others. And bin Laden was running like a rabbit. No time to sell junk. That is, until we caught up to him and killed him. Cowering behind women. A pathetic, murdering coward.

        • Pts

          Well. Osama bin Laden was your man. Your man, since you said “we”. Trained and armed by the US to fight the russians. A pathetic, murdering coward.

          • IronV

            We did indeed train and equip the Mujahideen. With spectacular success. And if you think that means we supported Osama bin Laden, that’s fatuous nonsense of course.

            Yes. A coward of the worst most skulking and disreputable variety. “You, young man! Go be a martyr. I’ll be waiting here in my cave… Let me know how it goes… Oh wait….”

        • the1whowasthere

          not true

      • blight_asdf

        A dud that hits the ground at 500 mph doesn’t leave much to sell.

    • van

      We should better look into our F-35 and SpaceX technology which just recently blown away in mid air…! Bingo?

    • vijay

      It’s B+. In case of balllstic missiles American missiles were accurate within say 300 feet and Russian missiles were accurate within 900 feet. The inaccuracy results from quality of inertial guidance system. As result Russians fielded 3 times as many ballistic missiles.Now Russians have closed the gap by improving the guidance system. In case of cruise missiles, they can fire more than necessary assuming few will fail. And this use of 26 missiles gives them learning experience. In case of cruise missiles, they have a map of terrain and complicated terrain can fool the on board computer. But now European nations in NATO know the Russian capability.

      • Lightingguy

        Well, no they didn’t deploy 3 times as many ICBM’s at the height of the Cold War. The numbers were about 1500 in 1971 or so (vs U.S. 1054), with the numbers fluctuating year to year. They got around the accuracy problem by using larger warheads then typical U.S., 1 mt. vs 450-550 kt. for U.S.

        As well, they were never able to keep them all operational. I think I read they were lucky if they could rely on 65-75%.

      • toto

        Russian firing of cruise missiles took US by surprise. How can you pretend to know the accuracy to be within 900 feet verses US’s 300 feet? American must really be taken aback and are scrambling to find superiority.

    • Sermsak

      CNN just grabs a fib from thin air and it is amazing the number of gullible its captures. With modern satellite imaging, it should be possible for CNN to give solid proof spots hit by these wayward missiles. Anyway, to catch attention, it is not uncommon for media to sensationise and readers are taken to a fantasy ride.

    • alex

      well at least they didn’t hit hospitals if You know what i mean LooooOL

      • blight_asdf

        You realize the Russian approach to hostage-taking was to use fentanyl-derived chemical agents on terrorists /and/ hostages, then not tell the hospitals? 2 hostages executed, 130 died to the gas.

        Gimme a LoooOL bro!

        • Guest

          Yea, that was a pretty high cost for success. Success meaning that not ALL the hostages were lost….bad situation all around. The Russians have proven time and time again, that they are NOT afraid of costing hostages lives to be successful, but in this situation, with the roof and all doors and windows loaded with bombs,this MAY have been the best that could be expected…that is not for me to decide though as I was not on scene and lack proper training to make that kind of call.

      • blight_asdf

        On a more serious note, hitting hospitals is a war crime. I await the results of the investigation, but I am sure nobody will take it seriously.

    • james

      T he US lost a higher percentage of missiles during the lasted Iraq war. Even if they lost four missiles, it’s a huge success.…

      • anon

        How much of this is due to GPS jamming?

        • Curt

          None, Tomahawk doesn’t need GPS.

          Biggest problem is transition to horizontal flight, most of the tomahawks that fail don’t transition to vertical flight. Then the Mine Warfare Guys get to go blow them up.

          Other causes are launch failures or some type of aerodynamic issue, where the missile tries to pull up to quickly or has a control system failure.

          We don’t know how many never left the launcher, but if you get 90% or more to the target you are doing pretty good. Well within the ballpark of modern day cruise missiles.

      • Curt

        I would not put a lot of credence in the article.

        To Quote: “At the time (this is Seaert Storm), the U.S. military reported that of the 288 Tomahawks launched at the Iraqis, eight malfunctioned after launch, 45 missed their targets, two were shot down and 233 scored hits. However, in the years that followed, serious studies found that the Tomahawk’s success rate had been significantly overstated. It is now widely believed that Tomahawks destroyed their targets less than 40 percent of the time.”

        Not to belittle the author, but he mixes up “hitting the target” with “destroying the target”. So the 40pct number has nothing to do with the number that hit the target since it is perfectly possible to hit but not destroy the target, especially given the targets the missiles were fired against. Even then 233 hits out of 288 is still pretty good. Of the 45 that were lost, several were shot down (just not reported as shot down) or flew into or over something that wasn’t known to be in the flight path (not really the missiles fault).

        Results were better in Desert Fox, OIF (“Though a few Tomahawks did malfunction, landing in Saudi Arabia or Turkey, it appears that the overwhelming majority hit their targets”)., and Libya, but even then it wasn’t 100pct.

        Bottomline, even if 22 of 26 make it to the target, that is pretty darn good. And, they can launch these from anything that can carry the Klub. Obviously a marketing operation, but still pretty impressive.

    • jack

      Is better to fall in desert them in hospital.

    • Bush

      If your total marks at school examination are 26, then you score 22 out of 26, you will have passed the examination with an ‘A’ grade. So whats fan about that? You must know that not all the bullets which comes out of a barrel hit the target. That’s why there is this word ‘missed’.

    • @cesarlimberlun

      it did in fact hit the americans mind.

    • blight_asdf

      Some of the TERCOM only TLAM’s got confused when encountering repetitive terrain and often overshot their targets, or failed to make appropriate course corrections. Curious what mode of failure is for Russian missiles.

    • reality check

      Even if true, it would match the declared 85% success rate of the Tomahawks and far surpass the 60% success rate of previous versions reported by some.

    • Truth Hurts

      Not as incompetent as striking a hospital after they gave their co-ordinates.

      • blight_asdfljk

        Beginning to think soldiers will have to have body cams, since unarmed MSF guards cannot guarantee the inviolability of the hospital grounds. And given American troubles with Taliban infiltrators, I wouldn’t be surprised if the hospital guards could be bought off/blackmailed into initiating a fight with Americans at the hospital.

    • Peter

      Fact: During the Gulf War, 288 Tomahawks were fired, only 60 percent hit their target. 6 crashed, 4 got stuck in their launch tubes. of the 40 percent that did not hit their intended target all got to within range of their destination but attacked look alike targets or nearby structures.
      While we do not and might never know how many Russian Kalibr’s failed to launch or got stuck in their tubes, or hit their intended targets (and may never know) if you do the math, because all ours did not hit their intended target, we are basically a bit worse in reliability than the Russians..

  • Tony

    NONE missed the targets… The report came from an ANONYMOUS source. Iran denied this immediately and stated it is nothing more than psychological warfare. Russia has officially refuted the unsubstantiated claim by saying these missiles are fixed upon launch and at their final target and they have ALL hit their targets.

    • Robbie

      Well, if Russia and Iran are denying it, of course there’s no truth to it. Whew!

    • hellno187

      From the BBC: “Iran’s Irna news agency reported on Wednesday that an unknown flying object had crashed in the village of Ghozghapan in the Iranian province of West Azerbaijan, said to be under the missiles’ flight path.

      But conservative Iranian media described the reports of missiles landing in Iran as ‘psychological operations by the US against Moscow’ “. These were obvious missile failures Tony, the same thing has happened with missile fired from S-300’s & S-400’s lately. This is far from an isolated incident, I won’t even go into other Russian equipment failures happening in that last year or so. But (at least with the old equipment failures) that’s what happens when you don’t have the money to properly maintain all that unused equipment for decades, then force all that mothballed equipment in to full time service again. So If you choose to believe Iranian state run media’s press release, you’re either a devote Russian/ Iranian or you’re a giant tool.

    • IronV

      “Psychological warfare.”

      1) by whom?
      2) to what end?

  • Russian TLAM

    I can confirm, targets were hit.

  • JakA

    Do not believe anything until it is officially ….. denied.

  • Nate

    It’s not just Russia and Iran denying and saying they have video monitoring proof — US own defense official rep said they have no information about Russian cruise missiles crash in Iran. It’s a fabricated CNN lie - obviously to discredit Russia.
    Russia conducts hundreds of missile tests and launches and when they have failures, they come out and say so.

    • hellno187

      LOL, it’s not just CNN reporting these misfires Nate, it’s being reported globally and the eye witness reports are from Iranian news outlets even. Nice try though, I’m sure Putin’s is proud of you.

    • IronV

      “it’s a fabricated CNN lie!” It’s all ANOTHER Western Conspiracy! “Unseen hands” grabbed those missiles!

      “The launch of the Mars probe was intercepted by a Western Missile!”

      “The submarine Kursk was torpedoed by a Western submarine!”

      it’s all a conspiracy by the U.S. against our great leader Putin, the RICHEST MAN IN THE WORLD!

      And how did he get to be the richest man?

  • XbobbyX

    The reports that some had landed in Iran are just part of the standard “trashin’ Russia” propaganda machine work. You have to say something bad, and the easiest way is to just throw it out on the internet, and watch it get picked up by other networks who would never reduct it when it’s proven false. And then it gets referenced by other news networks as the source, and those networks would then be referenced.

  • Jay

    I’d be quite interested to know exactly what was so important that it had to struck with cruise missiles from the Caspian, that couldn’t have been struck by the best strike planes in the Russian arsenal? The entire attack looks like a colossal waste of money on targets that will end up being loads and loads of civvie women and children before long.

  • citanon

    Probably freaked the Russians out a little finding out that not only did the US know the flight path of their missiles, but the exact number and which ones had crashed as well.

    Similar to their last attempt at sneaking their Su-34s into Syria.

  • Joe

    4 missiles missed…..LOL How much credibility does the west have? What kind of spectacular results has the West achieved with their “superior” weapons in the past year?
    You have to be raised in USA to be ignorant enough to believe the kind of trash coming out of the Western press right now.

  • winston

    Yeah, the US killed 24 doctors, nurses, and bed ridden patients hitting a hospital in Kunduz. But there are photos of that atrocity. Obvious the US is trying to divert attention away from its was crime. Some fell for it. Congratulations. BTW: There are new job openings in the CIA’s Free Syrian Army of arsonists and serial rapists.

  • luel

    then whats news there? the America miss its target on ISIS from air to ground all the days. but those long range missileis are fired from 1500km and distroying daesh very well. viva PUTIN the great man. death to the terrorists and their supporters

    • XYZ

      Even Putin, the great man, said it couldn’t be done with just an air campaign

    • Jonnyboy

      Horrible mistake would have been to hit the hospital once. The US continued to strike the hospital over and over again for a half hour and they knew where it was. However in typical American fashion they thought their intelligence was better then everybody else’s. Of course his intelligence was provided by the same people who said they had rock solid evidence about WMD’s in Iraq.

  • IronV

    Are you freaking kidding me? This debacle was a demonstration of “advances and capabilities?” It’s not just the wayward missiles hitting Iran. It’s the reports that many of the missiles that actually made it to Syria didn’t hit any targets. It’s the repeated failures of Russian missiles in the past year.

    Good lord. This is the craziest example of spin I’ve seen in a long time. Who is this guy, Schwartz? Is he the guy from “May the Schwartz be with you!!??”

    • duker

      Reports didnt hit targets ? You have to keep a skeptical mind. Do they have the target list? Do they have the means to have full real time satellite coverage.
      Remember the hit on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, it was reported it missed the intended target.
      These sort of missiles, which Russia has been developing long before the US, nver have a 100% success rate, due to failures along the way and inaccurate target coordinates.

  • Showspace

    QUESTION: John, could you maybe – on to Pam’s question on what your comment is on whether you support or – or how you feel about Russia’s new tactic of firing from warships?

    MR KIRBY: Well, again, I’m not going to – I’m not in a position to confirm that they actually have done that. It —

    QUESTION: But Moscow said that.

    MR KIRBY: Well, I’ve seen the video of it

  • Solomon

    Are U.S and the West saying that 4 out of 26 means a failure? Then they do not understand the word failure. What a new technology! Good job Putin and the Russian Military!

  • Rambo

    The Russian missiles never landed in Iran but they landed right in Syria where they heat their targets, we know Americans you are trying to news out of no were. Be very careful you Americans cause once you try to attack Russian, Washington will be ashes or a sea. Your behavior is like that of a child, who when he is afraid of his pear group goes by organizing other to go and gang against that person. If you are not afraid of Russian, why cant you try it one on one?

  • ming mow

    I feel sorry for the Americans, they are like Rome when Rome was a declining power, the only difference is Rome enjoyed the top for hundred of years while the Americans hold the top spot for only 7 or 10 years. Now the number 1 country is China next is Russia, US has fall to the 3rd poor Americans. pitiful fat people

    • XYZ

      I won’t dispute that China is either number one or will be soon. Russia, on the other hand…

    • veej7485

      Ha, china has a population problem, a critical environmental problem, as well as a host of civil liberty issues, censorship and government control problems, and corruption problems. The economy is set to tank, its slowing down and the growth is clearly unsustainable, and the currency is having valuation issues.

      • Anon

        None of what you are saying will stop it from destroying India and all the Islamic countries. China will never wage a war with the West and South America. That is where they make money. Do you think China wants to do business with India or Islamic countries? No, that is just a waste of time dealing with theocracies and religions non-sense. They want to sell products.

    • Caracoid

      Uh . . . don’t know what your official Chinese textbooks say, but the US has been a world power for well over one hundred years now, a superpower for seventy years, and the sole world power for 25 years. Not in 2000 years has anybody come close.

      Would be fun to read those textbooks, though. Got any copies?

    • Jonnyboy

      The US needs to stop trying to tell Russia what to do.

  • Rambo

    You killed innocent doctors in Afghanistan and said it was a mistake, but when the Russian planes made a mistake by flying Turkish airspace, you are saying it was not a mistake. Now you are organizing NATO to fight Russian, why, why America? Let the people of Syria decide their leaders without interfering, You are training terrorist using CIA instructors in Syria and now you are complaining because Russia killed them and their instructors. Please leave Syria alone. Remember what the bible says about what happened in Syria in the begging? One day, one of those countries you are destroying will end up firing nuclear.

    • e4fr

      The people of Syria tried to decide their leaders before your best friend Assad started killing. That’s how this whole mess started. The people of Syria begged the US to step in, and the US didn’t.

  • yohanes IV

    Good Ruassians are strong in fighting but the west is strong in false propaganda.

  • Vasja

    I’s like to see what will Pentagon say. Obviously they detected the lunch of the missiles and track the their flight. Will they comment on it? Still, even if 15 percent crashed it is a pretty low number for the first actual combat use of the new technology.

  • obata

    according to my understanding some of CIA are russian they want american to be destroyed there are tired because they know russia planed to destroy NATO and USA ten years back

  • Peter Ndombe

    Let’s start saying those fat Europeans across the atlantic ocean in the land of Appachee begin to know their fate has already come.They call themselves americans without knowing that that name originates in an jewish Italian amerigo vespusi was a cursed for them.They sow the seed of terror and when they see that it’s getting to explote,they rush up in to telle the world that they want to stop the war.Take an example of domestic gun shooting in the world,there is no country in the world that has a such awful record of gun shooting as the appacheans the name I always use to call those fat Europeans across the atlantic..Look again what they have been doing in the central African region specially in congo Kinshasa where Clintons and tony blaire the most and first stupid british prime minister supporting the criminal kagame to kill 6 millions Congolese so that they may be free to loot the natural resources of congo.
    Those appacheans as I call them are living their last hamburgers life on this planet,God has already abandoned them since the 70s.

    • caracoid

      At first I thought you were serious.

    • Kevin Loftus

      someday we should talk some. not all Americans believe and are happy with their government

      • IronV

        Indeed. I think you two have A LOT to talk about. I recommend you do it over a hibachi. Cook a few dogs. Have a couple of cocktails.

  • Ziv

    Iran’s official news agency Irna reported Wednesday the village of Ghozghapan was struck by an unknown falling object that damaged a building. And the article has since been disappeared but BBC has the screenshot apparently. Wednesday. Lets work on that timeline, shall we?
    And it was reported by Iran’s official news agency. Propaganda? Coincidence? LOL!
    At least one of the missiles fell in Iran. Way to go Russia! Bomb your own “ally” first.

  • jfelano

    yeah SOOOOO advanced, decades ago…..

  • Ivan

    I only know one thing: Russia’s days are numbered.

  • Beef Stick

    An international policy of “no conflict at any cost” isn’t working..

  • Manuel LaFontaine

    Like Che Guevara said “Never believe what the americans say, they are all liars, do not trust them”.

  • antonio

    We have a great and powerful country but I don’t understand why we can do nothing by our self or we don’t trust our military. we are like bees we have to have help from our friends over the world. Can we do our self? Can some body know something about this?

  • extreme_one

    CNN and New York Times are US government propaganda machine. All of US media really. Just last week it was revealed that US government planted question in 60 minutes.

  • John

    At least Putin has balls. The whole of the Mid East crisis can be blamed on Hilary Clinton who will probably be our next President. Spoiled ignorant U.S.

    • Lightingguy

      The whole of the current crisis is what I’m assuming you mean, stopping maybe at 9/11 or so, as otherwise we have to take into account the British try way back when.

      In any case, could you expand on this thought ?, as I typically see folks blaming BO for the ISIS problem, and HC is a new one. And amusing at the same time. Should be a fun read.

  • caracoid

    What’s the deal with all the Russian trolls? This site seems to be on the top of their daily list. I picture them all typing away in one big dimly lit room that smells of sweat and stale tobacco with their Politburo supervisor breathing down their necks to be sure they mention “The Great Leader, Putin.”

    • duker

      Are you being paid to type your stuff out. Why do you think everyone else is? people in Russia support their country just like in France , Germany USA etc.

    • Jason

      I started following this site less than a year ago and there seemed to be a lot of people discussing technology, its past, its future, the evolving sciences! It was intelligent. Now, in the space of a few weeks, it’s become nothing but bad political rants. I’m done with it.

      • blight_

        Been here since it was run by Noah Schachtman. It’s not gone well since the 2009 election, which seemed to motivate a lot of trolls to hit the internet and metastasize to every website.

  • Highguard

    Winston, Luel, Solomon, Rambo, Yohanes IV,
    At least we didn’t murder 2M+ of our Jewish population like you did. Also, most of our warriors went to Sunday School when they were young and learned that the Jewish nation, Israel, is God’s chosen people. Make sure you read Revelations to see what happens to you in the Valley of Megiddo. Meanwhile, start to prepare yourselves for what’s going to start happening to you economy in exactly 2-yrs from now.

    Ming mow, what will you do when we sever your connection to the internet and cancel our debt to you in the same day? You’ll be hosed. Get ready, it’s coming…..

    XbobbyX - It’s “redact” not “reduct”. If your going to attack us in English, could you please learn it first?
    Vasja - Same for Russian propagandists, “launch” not “lunch”. How will anyone take you serious with posts like this?

  • Highguard

    Understand this, our civilians do have weight problem. It comes from too much prosperity. However, our military does not. The battleship of your namesake is going to make a great reef for sealife somewhere if you don’t learn how to make a better CIWS. Maybe you can do a salvage operation to recover all of the hundreds of water-damaged missiles. Oh, wait, that’s right, you don’t even come the rescue of your own sailors. That’s a job left up to us. By the way, “Apache” is spelt with one “p” and one “e”. Be careful about singling out just 1 Native American tribe for your racist rants. We have many. And they all have warriors in the US Armed Forces that tend to be the most lethal….watch “Legends of the Fall” to see your fate at the hands of a Native American. Better Dead than Red buddy bo. My next recommendation for PGMs to bring back ASAP will be SRAAM. Then, they’ll be no need to cut off the Kola Peninsula.

  • Peter

    Hey guys, remember when this site had meaningful discussion and intelligent conversation, instead of this childish bashing?
    Yeah, I miss those days.

  • Ed Greene

    Where is our electronic warfare weapons, or pulse weapons. Is the US government afraid of Russia? Don’t we have the Technology to Jam Russia’s S300 missiles? Or are we so broke that we cant respond? It seems that Russia has weapons that would destroy most of our ships?