Russia is modifying an existing cruise missile design to extend its range to 4,500 kilometers, or approximately 3,000 miles. The new missile, Kalibr-M, could be launched against targets deep within the United States from extended distances. Coupled with the low flying altitude of cruise missiles in general, Kalibr-M would be difficult to defend against.
, Kalibr-M is “at the stage of scientific research and financed by the Ministry of Defense.” The new cruise missile is designed to go after targets on land as a very long-distance precision strike weapon with both high-explosive or nuclear warhead capability. the weapon will go into service with the Russian Navy, equipping frigates and later submarines.
Kalibr is roughly similar to the American Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile. Powered by a turbojet engine, it flies at low altitude, hugging the ground to avoid radar detection while flying at subsonic speed. Current sea-launched cruise missiles used by Russian surface ships and submarines have a range of 932 miles to 1,500 miles and have been used to strike alleged terrorist targets in Syria from the and . Here's some video from Russian-state government-funded RT:
Why does Russia need a nuclear-tipped cruise missile with a 3,000-mile range? Russia is building up nuclear forces, including the Poseidon nuclear-tipped torpedo, Avangard hypersonic weapon system, and Sarmat ICBM, that can overwhelm or fly under U.S. ballistic missile defenses. A nuclear-tipped cruise missile can also fly under existing U.S. defenses. The missile’s long range gives Russian planners the ability to launch against coastal targets from as far away as the North Sea, a relatively short journey from Russian naval bases north of the Arctic Circle. Alternately, a submarine that risks approaching closer to the U.S. coast can strike targets farther inland.
, the new missile "will be much larger, the weight of its warhead will approach 1 tonne." Although Russia often launders propaganda through state media sources like TASS, none of this is technically impossible. Turbojet engines use aviation fuel and their range can be extended simply by increasing the size of the fuel tank.
The fielding of a really, really long-range nuclear cruise missile also could be a sign that Russia’s new strategic bomber, , is in trouble. PAK-DA has been promised for years and is allegedly in the design stages but has so far proven vaporware. That may be just as well, as the state of modern air defenses means the new bomber would probably just be used as a standoff cruise missile carrier. If long-range cruise missiles do most of the penetration work, it seems hardly worth it to build an entirely new stealth bomber just to carry them. With the new Kalibr-M, Russia’s could instead fulfill the same role.