It wasnaEUR( tm) t that long ago that the U.S. Air Force seemed to be the only one capable of assaulting from half a continent away. Then came RussiaaEUR( tm) s aEUR~ anti-ISISaEUR( tm) strikes.
Russia apparently deployed for the first time a new, radar-evading cruise missile during its massive Nov. 17 heavy bomber raid on Syria.
The Kh-1 01 long-range cruise missile, which reportedly packs an 800 -pound warhead and can fly nothing less than 1,700 miles under spacecraft guidance, has been in development by Russias cash-strapped aerospace industry for three decades. Now that its apparently combat-ready, Moscow can claim to possess a global ten-strike ability that before, only the United States possessed.
The Kh-1 01 devotes Russia a globaland stealthyaerial ten-strike ability. Merely the U.S. Air Force can boast a similar ten-strike prowess .
Russias mid-November bomber raid startled observers at the least as much as did Moscows initial deployment of warplanes to Syria in late September and its subsequent bombardment of sea-launched cruise missile at rebel forces-out in October.
The raid involved 25 Backfire, Bear, and Blackjack bombers flying thousands of miles, round-trip, to fire dozens of cruise missile and drop-off scores of bombs. Moscow claimed it was attacking activists of the so-called Islamic State, but as in previous Russian raids, many of the targets were in areas such as Idlib and Aleppo in northern Syria where ISIS has no large-scale presence. Skeptics of the Kremlins war purposes have accused the Russian government of targeting any and all adversaries of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, including U.S.-backed moderate rebels.
The survival of the Syrian regime, which is a strong and historic ally of Russia, is Moscows main aim in Syria. But Russias two-month-old intervention is also dedicating the Kremlin a chance to test out, and show off, sophisticated new weaponry, including new jet fighters, the sea-launched Kaliber missile and potentially the Kh-1 01.
Paired with upgraded Tu-1 60 Blackjack and Tu-9 5 Bear bombers, which can fly thousands of miles in a single sortie, the Kh-1 01 devotes Russia a globaland stealthyaerial ten-strike ability. Unlike Russias older Kh-5 5 cruise missile with its rounded nose, the Kh-1 01 features a flat, chiseled front profile that, along with other features, helps reduce its detectability to radar. If you cant see the Kh-1 01 arriving, you cant shoot it down.
Only the U.S. Air Force, with its own heavy bombers carrying stealthy Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles can boast a similar ten-strike prowess. Europes Taurus and Storm Shadow rockets have some stealth features, but their scope is much shorter and the fighters that carry them cannot fly nearly as far as Russian and American bombers can.
To be clear, the Russian defense ministry has not officially confirmed that its bombers launched Kh-1 01 s into Syria. And there is a small chance that, in fact, the new missile wasnt the members of the November raid.
Official videos purportedly illustrating the bomber mission prove ground crews loading chisel-nose rockets onto bombers at a base apparently in Russia. Subsequent scenes in the same videos expose rockets falling from the warplanes bomb bays, but the aerial footage is too fleetingand the angle too restrictiveto clearly establish the munitions exact identity. The ambiguity was sufficient for John Tirpak, an editor at the respected Air Force magazine in Virginia, to claim that the Kh-1 01 s were unlikely to have actually been used in the raids, meaning Russia wanted them seen and to suggest they are operational.
Perhaps the best proof of the Kh-1 01 s combat debut is imagery circulating on social media that seems to illustrate the distorted remains of a crashed or exploded cruise missile on the ground in Syria. The debris includes the Kh-1 01 s distinctive engine pod. And Pavel Podvig, an independent military analyst based in Geneva, told The Daily Beast theres no reason Moscow wouldnt use the new missile. As far as I can tell, Kh-1 01 is tested and ready, Podvig said.
Of course, all this high-tech new weaponry wont inevitably change the balance of power in Syria or bring the countrys bloody war to a swift aim. Various air forces have been bombing Syria for years now with their best airplanes and munitions without significantly altering existing conflicts nasty trajectory.
Read more: www.thedailybeast.com