WASHINGTON — Russian media reports that a Russian diesel-electric submarine operating submerged in the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday launched Kalibr cruise missiles at targets in Syria.
Agence France-Presse, citing Russian news agencies, reported that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday the military had launched strikes in Syria for the first time from a submarine stationed in the Mediterranean.
"We used Kalibr cruise missiles from the Rostov-on-Don submarine from the Mediterranean Sea," Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin, Russian news agencies reported.
The missiles "targeted two major terrorist positions in the territory of Raqqa," Russia Today quoted Shoigu as telling Putin. "We can say with absolute confidence that significant damage has been inflicted upon ammunition warehouses and a mine production plant, as well as the oil infrastructure."
Raqqa is the de facto Syrian Islamic State jihadist group.
The Russian Defense Ministry, posting on its Facebook page, said the strike was conducted as part of a coordinated increase in the intensity of Russian strikes against the Islamic State and other extremist targets operating in Syria ordered by President Putin on Dec. 5.
“For the first time from an underwater position, a combined launch [of four] Kalibr sea-based cruise missiles was carried out by the submarine Rostov-on-Don," the statement said. "It resulted in the destruction of two important command points for the IS terrorist organization in Rakka province.”
Reporting the results of the four-day surge in activity, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu was quoted in another statement published late on Tuesday that the Rostov-on-Don's attack combined with flights of Tu-22M3 strategic bombers from southern Russia to strike over 600 targets during 300 sorties conducted against what the ministry continues to assert are IS positions in Syria.
The Kalibr cruise missile is an updated version of a missile that has been in Russian service since 2012, according to online sources. With a range of roughly 1,000 miles or more and small enough to be carried by submarines and small warships, the weapon is changing the calculus of the reach and effectiveness of smaller naval combatants.
The weapon was first used in the Syrian conflict on Oct. 7, when at least 26 3M-14T missiles were launched from four small Russian warships in the Caspian Sea at Syrian targets about a thousand miles away. Another strike was launched from the Caspian Sea flotilla on Nov. 20.
The latest strike is the first reported use of the 3M-14 Kalibr variant, specifically designed to be carried by submarines.
The Rostov-on-Don, commissioned early this year, is the second unit of the Project 636 Vashavyanka-class of diesel-electric submarines, an improvement on the Project 877 Kilo class. The submarine, built at the Admiralty Shipyard in St. Petersburg, is one of six Project 636 subs built or under construction for Russia's Black Sea Fleet.
The Rostov-on-Don is newly operational — Russian media reported in mid-October the sub had completed trials and workups with the Northern Fleet in the Barents Sea and would transfer to the Black Sea.
The first Project 636 armed with Kalibr missiles, Novorossiysk, arrived in the Baltic in September, according to the US Navy. A third submarine, Stary Oskol, is expected in 2016.
Matthew Bodner in Moscow contributed to this report.