The Russian military intends to expand deployment of its most sophisticated non-nuclear cruise missiles for attacks at land and sea under a sweeping naval modernization, according to an analysis by the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, Bloomberg reported.
Plans to install the Russian navy's new KALIBR-class missiles even on vessels such as corvettes, or small warships, "is profoundly changing its ability to deter, threaten or destroy adversary targets," the U.S. agency, known as ONI, said in a report posted on its website, Bloomberg wrote.
"With the use of the land attack missile, all platforms have a significant ability to hold distant fixed ground targets at risk using conventional warheads," it said.
The KALIBR class is "a more capable Russian domestic version" of weapons it has marketed for export over the past decade, according to the report. The new weapons include sea-launched, land-attack models that were fired into Syria from a submerged Russian submarine, according to Russia's state-run TASS news service.
While U.S.-Russian tensions have escalated over President Vladimir Putin's intervention in Syria's civil war to prop up President Bashar al-Assad, as well as his earlier moves in Ukraine, the 68-page ONI report is mostly a matter-of-fact account of Russia's successes in modernizing its navy.
Still, the intelligence office said Russia's continuing development of anti-ship missiles "with improved design features" such as supersonic speed and evasive maneuvers, "will present continuing challenges to U.S. and allied naval forces."
The KALIBR-class, with ranges of as much as 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles), improves on export weapons such as the supersonic anti-ship, sea-skimming cruise missile known as the Sizzler. Chinese submarines are equipped with the Sizzler, according to the Pentagon's annual report on China's military capabilities.
The Naval intelligence report mostly outlines broad trends in the Russian navy's equipment modernization and personnel development. It refers only in general terms to modernization of the submarine fleet, the threat that most worries U.S. planners.
"Placing a priority on strategic deterrence and defense, Russia's recapitalization of its submarine forces began with its strategic ballistic missile submarines," ONI said. "Construction of general-purpose nuclear and non-nuclear submarines was second in importance."