Naval powers consider the ability to launch long-range attacks on strategic targets inland as a crucial and distinguished capability. Until 2015, it was believed that only the United States and the United Kingdom possessed this capability with their Tomahawk cruise missiles. However, the landscape has changed since then.

On October 7, 2015, Russia showcased its long-range cruise missile capabilities when the Gepard-class frigate Dagestan and three Buyan-class corvettes deployed in the Caspian Sea launched twenty-six Kalibr cruise missiles. These nine-meter-long missiles traveled over nine hundred miles, passing through Iranian and Iraqi airspace before striking eleven targets in Syria. The Kalibr missiles are currently deployed on various Russian Navy submarines, frigates, and corvettes. While the Gepard-class frigate carries only eight Kalibr missiles, larger vessels such as missile-armed destroyers can accommodate dozens.

The Kalibr missile family consists of over a dozen different variants, differing in launch platform, range, target profile, speed, and payload. These missiles, ranging from six to nine meters in length, carry a 990-pound warhead or a nuclear payload. The land-attack variants, designated 3M14T and 3M14K (NATO designation SS-N-30A), have a range of between one thousand and 1,500 km, utilizing inertial guidance, GPS, and digital scene matching area correlation (DSMAC) for precise targeting.

The Russian Navy has plans to upgrade the Kalibr cruise missile with a longer-range variant called “Kalibr-M” with a maximum firing range exceeding 4,500 km. This extended range would further enhance their strategic capabilities.

On the other hand, the Tomahawk cruise missile, primarily used by the United States Navy and Royal Navy, is a long-range, all-weather, subsonic missile. It utilizes an inertial navigation system, GPS, and terrain contour matching (TERCOM) navigation, which compares the terrain with stored mapping data to maintain its trajectory. Tomahawk missiles can be reprogrammed in-flight, have the capability for reconnaissance and data transmission, and possess advanced features such as DSMAC for target identification.

In a comparison between the Kalibr and Tomahawk missiles, the Kalibr-M variant significantly outranges the Tomahawk, with a range of 4,500 km compared to the Tomahawk’s 1,700 km. The Kalibr missiles have the advantage of being deployable from a wider variety of smaller ships, including frigates and corvettes, and are being developed for deployment from land bases, vehicles, and aircraft as well.

However, the Tomahawk missile has proven combat effectiveness over its 30-year history and has undergone regular upgrades and improvements. Its Block V modification has enhanced capabilities, including improved networking capabilities, surface target engagement, extended range, and increased resistance to jamming.

While the Kalibr missiles offer advantages such as potential cost-effectiveness and wider deployment options, they are relatively susceptible to jamming techniques compared to the Tomahawk, which has advanced electronic counter-countermeasures.

Given the limited knowledge available about the Kalibr cruise missiles, it is challenging to make a comprehensive comparison. The Tomahawk’s long history and proven track record for accuracy and reliability contrast with the relatively recent introduction of the Kalibr missiles in 2012. The Russian Navy, however, has undeniably acquired a strategic capability with the Kalibr cruise missiles, expanding the range of options for long-range attacks on land-based targets.