The Novator Klub land attack cruise missile is a close equivalent to the MRASM series of turbojet powered Tomahawk missile. Like the Tomahawk, the Novator is also sub/ship launched, for land targets. After launch, it rises to around 3000 feet, before flipping over and diving till it levels out at around 500 feet.
Thereafter, it’s tiny turbojet engine propels it forward at a sedate sub-sonic speed, as it’s inertial guidance system helps it to pitch up and down, matching the contour of the terrain below, as it hurtles forward. If you were an adventurous guy sitting astride one, you would hear faint clicks and whirrs as the control surfaces on the missile’s wing dipped and rose, much like flaps and elevators on airplanes, making the Klub turn to a new heading.
The course adjustments of the Klub are made by an inertial guidance system provided by a ‘constellation’ of 24 Glonass satellites, geo-stationary at 19100 kms above the surface of the earth, positioned in 3 cohorts of 8 equally spaced satellites whose orbital planes are separated by 120°, thus effectively covering every square inch of the globe.
Though the development of the Glonass system started in the Soviet era, 1976, the lack of funding saw it wallow in suspended animation for decades, until Putin came to power and made Glonass the top priority for the Russian Federal Space Agency. By 2011, the entire constellation was in place – all 24 satellites.
Like Russia’s Glonass , China too has it’s own BeiDou Navigation Satellite System of 35 satellites, while India has it’s Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) of 7 satellites and counting.
Having your own satellite-based global navigation system has been found to be necessary since the American 65-satellite GPS has a habit of being absent in hostile situations where it’s ‘perceived allies’ are involved. India found this out the hard way in 1999, at Kargill. Unless you pay blind obeisance, America can be a treacherous friend.
Last week, a barrage of 30 Novators were launched from Russian guided missile frigates steaming along the Iran-Azerbaijan shoreline on the Caspian Sea. They quickly crossed Iranian airspace, into Iraq, before veering north toward their targets in the Syrian towns of Idlib and Hama, their Glonass coordinates provided by the Syrian military.
The Ruskies claim that the cruise missiles took out 300 militants in one raid. It is still early to predict just how deep Russia’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War will be, but it is certainly a game changer that the west didn’t see coming. Now, anyone who wants to change the dynamics in Syria by challenging Assad, will be met by a hefty bouncer with Slavic features and a knuckle duster, at the door. Ostensibly, Russia is going after the ISIS but it is taking a slightly circuitous route – through the rebel heartland first.
The first order of the battle has been an attempt to secure Syria’s border with Turkey. The anti-Assad secular rebels receive their supplies through Turkey and Russia feels it necessary to plug that flow. In the process, it’s Su-27s have encroached well into Turkish territory no less than three times so far. It looks like they’re testing how far they can go to actually start bombing that area to cut off rebel supply lines.
When Turkey joined the NATO in 1952, the cold-war was at it’s peak. The Article-5 of the NATO Treaty – which states that any aggression against one member will be considered as an aggression against all members and dealt with militarily by all – was relevant then. It is a meaningless farce today and Russia senses it. I cannot imagine the British Parliament or the American Congress approving a military adventure to save Turkey’s dignity if it’s border areas are bombed by Russia, while the ISIS laughs all the way to the bank.
In fact the situation is turning into a comic farce. Everyone in the region is begging to be bombed, just to get rid of the ISIS. Iraq has just petitioned Russia to go ahead and bomb it’s ISIS strongholds.
This brings my musings to Barry Obs, my favorite American President and his complete lack of appetite in getting directly involved in Syria, let alone bringing down Assad. Again, Putin senses this and he also recognizes that the window of opportunity is closing. He has a year to wipe out the Syrian opposition and set Assad firmly back in place, before a trigger-happy Republican President takes over and reaches for his six-shooter.
(Yeah, it will a Republican White House in 2016, no question about it. In so-called democracies of the world, the two major political parties always take turns in f–king the people, in an orderly manner).
Obama has been making feeble protests to Putin that, instead of going after the ISIS, Russia is going after the secular west-allied Syrian opposition. To that, Volodya has expressed mock helplessness that on the ground, the Syrian opposition is indistinguishable. He repeated an infamous George W. Bush quote authorizing ‘signature’ drone strikes in Waziristan, which allow drone pilots sitting in Nevada to launch strikes just by recognizing behavior patterns and movements, without any hard intel – “If they look like terrorists and move about and talk like terrorists, then heck, they must be terrorists.”
Russia wants to make sure that if anything is going to get settled on the ground in Syria – no matter by who or how – Russia will be a central part of the decisions taken and the final settlements reached. And that means that the Turks, the Iranians, the Iraqis, the Jordanians, the Hezbollah and anybody else who might have an interest in the conflict in Syria, will have to reckon with Russia.
To the latest Russian aggressive position, Obama appears to have backed down. He is right in backing down – it is a strategic back-down and the reasons are pragmatic : If Assad was to suddenly be removed, who was there to take his place and stabilize Syria? Nobody. I cannot even begin to imagine the chaos in the resulting power vacuum. Remember Libya?
For the moment Obama is content to take the criticism that the Republican rednecks are heaping on him – that he is not aggressive enough, that he should ‘do something’. They charge him with being spineless, ambiguous and unsure. Do something – sure, but what? Ask them what they feel he should do and they won’t have an answer. Their voices will just trail off into a sullen petulant silence.
Maybe Obama is deliberately making it look like he is stepping back and letting Russia take center stage actually is all about. How about that?
History has repeatedly shown us that direct military involvement in Islamic nations and interference in their affairs has disastrous consequences. You can never ever hope to win their hearts and minds. After you have played around with their borders, colonized them and pillaged their natural resources for the past two hundred years, they no longer have any hearts and minds to win. They are a vastly different culture that happens to harbor an ingrained hatred of you.
Obama recognizes that Muslim mindset. Maybe Putin does too, but he is a Russian with a nation that is facing economic collapse and therefore has little to lose. He might be aware that if he goes in guns blazing, it might begin to look like a recording of Afghanistan 1980 being replayed in Syria – until Assad falls, dragged through the streets of Damascus and strung up from a lamp post – just the way Najibullah went in Kabul 1996.
Putin doesn’t really care. He will waste trillions and get bogged down in a slugfest – against a bunch of folks who are not afraid to die. With his economy already in shreds, Putin has taken the first baby steps into making a serious error of judgment. And over what? That piddly little naval base on the Mediterranean? Is holding on to it worth all the trouble? Putin seems to think so.
Obama might be the pragmatic one here. He probably sees that by not getting into Syria, America is actually in a win-win situation. If Russia ultimately prevails in propping up Assad and destroying ISIS, it is good for America. On the other hand, if Putin doesn’t and withdraws, bloodied, it is Russia which loses, not America.
Knowing when to step back from the precipice doesn’t come naturally to everyone, certainly not the hawks in the Republican Party of America. One has to be Barrack Hussein Obama for that.
It may be just a matter of time, before Putin finds his Actium on the plains outside Alleppo and his lover, Assad, feels the fangs of an asp in his bowl of dates.
But does the Middle-East look to you like a region that will once again be a peaceful place after the ISIS is gone? Maybe the one thousand five hundred year old ethos of the folks who live there are just not comfortable living in peace?
It is not for nothing that they say that a sizeable percentage of the population in the Middle-East is made up of so-called ‘peace envoys’. There are UN Special Envoys, G20 Peace Envoys, Commonwealth Peace Envoys and G8 Peace Envoys. Given that the position of a Peace Envoy is usually considered equivalent to that of a head of state, Peace Envoys live in style. When the President or Prime Minister of an affluent western nation retires, he becomes immediately eligible for a Peace Envoy assignment. The pay and perks are lavish and he gets to continue being treated like a head of state, albeit with derisive sniggers and nose thumbings and boos behind his back, which he pretends not to hear.
If only we could get Arnold Schwarneggar to travel back in time to 610AD and get to that mountain first and tell the Almighty Lord, “Stop bothering us with your archangels, Sire. Do your job – get that red guy with the pointy ears and forked tail. Just leave us the heck alone.”