Meet Russia's Stealthy New Cruise Missile

In this photo made from the footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official web site on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, a Russian Tu-160 bomber launches a cruise missile at a target in Syria. Russia's defense minister said its warplanes have fired cruise missiles on militant positions in Syria's Idlib and Aleppo provinces. The Islamic State group has positions in Aleppo province; Idlib has the presence of the Nusra militant group. (AP Photo/ Russian Defense Ministry Press Service)

I wrote on Monday that Syria is being used as “a proving ground for Vladimir Putin’s newest weapons and for his renewed imperial vision.”

Here’s the latest weapon and perhaps a glimpse of his vision:

The new weapon—which is an extremely long-range stealth cruise missile—comes in two variants. The Kh-101 is the conventional variant, which was launched from Tu-160s against Syrian targets yesterday and the Kh-102, which is the nuclear-tipped variant. The missiles might have a range as great as 3,100 miles by some Western estimates.

However, Russian media indicates that the weapon has far greater capabilities. In 2012, the Russian newspaper Izvestia reported that the conventional variant of the missile would have a circular probability of error of less than 30 feet at ranges of up to 6,000 miles. The missile would use a combination of inertial guidance and satellite navigation using the Russian GLONASS system. Some reports indicate it might have a imaging infrared terminal guidance system.

The missile’s warhead would pack 880lbs of explosives. At the time, Izvestia had reported the weapon would enter service in 2013. Indeed, given that the Russians used the weapon during yesterday’s raid, that appears to have been the case.

There is not much data available about the Kh-102 nuclear version of the cruise missile. One can presume that the nuclear variant will be at least as long-ranged and just as stealthy as the conventional variant. It will also likely travel at tree top levels and it is thought to cruise at about Mach 0.77. The nuclear warhead is thought be a 250KT device.

That’s a lot of kilotons in a hard-to-detect package with a very long range.

Pretty sure it’s Putin who hit the Reset button — all the way back to about 1953.