Weapons of the Syrian War: Cruise Missiles

In this conflict, cruise missiles have largely functioned to remind the world that both the U.S. and Russian militaries have them.

Editor’s note: This series examines 10 categories of arms used in the Syrian conflict, a ghastly proving ground for much of what 21st-century militaries and militant groups can bring to war.


First use: Late September 2014. The U.S. military launched strikes against the “elite” al-Qaeda operatives known as the Khorasan Group in Syria’s northwestern Idlib governorate. U.S. officials said the group was plotting attacks outside Syria. 

Impact: The cruise missile promises precision targeting from a great distance away. In Syria’s war, it has largely functioned as a reminder to the world that the U.S. and Russia have active and accurate-enough cruise arsenals that are ready when called upon.

U.S.: Tomahawk land-attack missiles with a range of up to 1,500 miles and a price tag of more than $1.5 million. In the September 2014 strikes, the U.S. Navy launched a total of 47 Tomahawks from the cruiser Philippine Sea in the Arabian Gulf and the destroyer Arleigh Burke in the Red Sea.

The USS Arleigh Burke fires cruise missiles on September 23, 2014. (DOD)


France: SCALP/Stormshadow cruise missiles—which have a range of about 250 km and cost about $930,000 each—were launched from Rafale fighter jets operating out of the UAE and Jordan on December 15, 2015marking France’s first cruise strikes since the war in Libya, this time against ISIS in western Iraq. 

Britain: British warplanes (in this case, from Tornado jets) also launched Stormshadow cruise missiles for the first time against ISIS in late June 2016, hitting targets in western Iraq.

Russia: 3M14T Kalibr land-attack cruise missiles.

In October 2015, Russia fired its first volley of the war: 26 missiles, at least four of which are believed to have crashed somewhere in northwest Iranaccording to U.S. military officials. The following month, alarmed by another Russian volley, Iraq closed airports in its northeast region on November 23-24.

A Russian submarine fires missiles from the Mediterranean Sea on December 8, 2015. (RT)

The video below purports to show what some of Russia’s volleys looked like from Syrian territory.


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