Russian Submarines Launching Kalibr Cruise Missiles At Ukraine

Russian Submarines Launching Kalibr Cruise Missiles At Ukraine
File image. RFS Krasnodar, one of the Improved KILOs, surfaces after conducting weapons training in 2021.

Russian Submarines Launching Kalibr Cruise Missiles At Ukraine

Flag Russia A steady stream of Kalibr cruise missiles is one of the Russian Navy's major contributions to the Ukraine invasion. And it is seen as generally more successful than the amphibious landing forces and surface action units. Both of which have suffered conspicuous losses. And launching missiles is a visible symbol for the Russian Navy, often featured on Ministry of Defense videos.

But not all of the missile launches are so visible. Literally. Some are from submarines.

One of the less talked about aspects of the invasion is the role of Russia's submarines. In the build-up we spent some time monitoring their dispositions. But as the war quickly shaped up, they were largely forgotten by the general public. But submarines are always lurking beneath the surface of mainstream media.

There is strong circumstantial evidence that Russian Navy submarines have been launching Kalibr cruise missiles. These weapons are Russia's equivalent to the American Tomahawk. They come in different variants, bit the long ranged land-attack one is most relevant here.

Russian Submarines Launching Kalibr Cruise Missiles At Ukraine
Satellite image from Planet, analysed by Benjamin Pittet (Twitter) shows one example of an Improved KILO Class submarine reloading during the Ukraine War.

I have been keeping an eye on their port activities throughout the conflict. We cannot observe them under the waves, but we do see them loading weapons in port. Combined with the tempo of their comings and goings,...

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They can be launched from the torpedo tubes of the Pr.636.3 Improved KILO class submarine. These are conventionally powered (i.e. not nuclear submarines) and are relatively small, making them ideal for the Black Sea.

The submarines were noted loading Kalibr immediately before the invasion. And they have been observed loading on several occasions since. While submarine launches cannot be confirmed (currently), it is by far the simplest explanation for the observed activities.

Russian Submarines Launching Kalibr Cruise Missiles At Ukraine
Remains of a Russian Kalibr cruise missile fired into Ukraine. It appears that there is no way from the markings to determine whether it was shot from a surface ship or a submarine.

The Russian Navy has four Improved KILO class submarines in the Black Sea. A fifth boat, B-871 Alrosa (known for her pump jet), is undergoing maintenance. She is an older variant and cannot carry Kalibr.

Russia has also deployed two of the Improved KILOs, home-based in the Black Sea, to the Mediterranean. These can also launch Kalibr but not against targets in Ukraine (unless overflying NATO countries which is improbable). They have been joined by nuclear-powered attack submarines deploying from the Arctic.

The Mediterranean forces are part of an outer defense for the Ukraine invasion, providing a counter to NATO warships. However since the Bosporus has been closed to warships, they cannot transfer to the Black Sea.

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