WASHINGTON — Russian media reports that a Russian diesel-electric submarine operating in the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday launched Kalibr cruise missiles at targets in Syria.
Agence France-Presse, citing Russian news agencies, reported that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday the military had launched strikes in Syria for the first time from a submarine stationed in the Mediterranean.
“We used Kalibr cruise missiles from the Rostov-on-Don submarine from the Mediterranean Sea,” Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin, Russian news agencies reported.
The missiles “targeted two major terrorist positions in the territory of Raqqa,” Russia Today quoted Shoigu as telling Putin. “We can say with absolute confidence that significant damage has been inflicted upon ammunition warehouses and a mine production plant, as well as the oil infrastructure.”
Raqqa is the de facto Syrian Islamic State jihadist group.
The Kalibr cruise missile is an updated version of a missile that has been in Russian service since 2012, according to online sources. With a range of roughly 1,000 miles or more and small enough to be carried by submarines and small warships, the weapon is changing the calculus of the reach and effectiveness of smaller naval combatants.
The weapon was first used in the Syrian conflict on Oct. 7, when at least 26 3M-14T missiles were launched from four small Russian warships in the Caspian Sea at Syrian targets about a thousand miles away. Another strike was launched from the Caspian Sea flotilla on Nov. 20.
The latest strike is the first reported use of the 3M-14 Kalibr variant, specifically designed to be carried by submarines.
The Rostov-on-Don, commissioned early this year, is the second unit of the Project 636 Vashavyanka-class of diesel-electric submarines, an improvement on the Project 877 Kilo class. The submarine, built at the Admiralty Shipyard in St. Petersburg, is one of six Project 636 subs built or under construction for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
The Rostov-on-Don is newly operational — Russian media reported in mid-October the sub had completed trials and workups with the Northern Fleet in the Barents Sea and would transfer to the Black Sea.