Moscow Orders Ground-Based Kalibr Cruise Missiles

February 13, 2019

Jamestown Foundation – Following the formal collapse of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, on February 2, Moscow has ordered the Russian defense industry to create a ground-based version of the Kalibr cruise missile complex. The family of Kalibr sea- and air-launched cruise missiles (SLCM, ALCM), has seen extensive use during Russia’s military operations in Syria, using naval and air platforms against enemy targets (Life.ru, February 7). The future ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) Kalibr variant will supplement addition to plans to develop a new, longer-range SLCM (see EDM, January 22). These developments are consistent with growing interest in populating Russia’s conventional Armed Forces with high-precision strike systems to boost military capability and add depth and credibility to Moscow’s doctrine of “pre-nuclear” or “non-nuclear” deterrence as well as adjusting to the post-INF strategic environment.

Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu made the announcement concerning the GLCM Kalibr on February 5, in Moscow, during a meeting of the National State Defense Management Center (Natsionalnyy Tsentr Upravleniya Oboronoy— NTsUO). Shoigu justified this in terms of Washington formally suspending its participation in the INF Treaty on February 2, and its work to develop land-based missiles with ranges in excess of 500 kilometers. In recent years, Moscow and Washington frequently traded accusations of treaty violations by the other party. “During 2019–2020, we need to develop a land-based version of the sea-based Kalibr complex with a long-range cruise missile that has proven itself in Syria,” Shoigu asserted in an NTsUO conference call (Vm.ru, February 5). Shoigu also made clear that President Putin ordered the new Kalibr GLCM as a retaliatory measure against US military initiatives tied to breaching and finally suspending the INF Treaty.

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