Why Russia Shouldn’t Gloat About Its Capture Of A U.S. Tomahawk Missile In Syria

Why Russia Shouldn’t Gloat About Its Capture Of A U.S. Tomahawk Missile In Syria

Michael Peck

Security, Middle East

Here’s a tip: if you don’t want the enemy to capture your weapons, then don’t use them.

Key point: If it’s just a question of jamming the Tomahawk, then the United States will modify the missile’s systems to compensate for that jamming.

Here’s a tip: if you don’t want the enemy to capture your weapons, then don’t use them.

But if you’re afraid to use them because they might be captured, then what are good are they?

Russia is crowing that it has recovered America’s Tomahawk cruise missiles that were launched in Syria but failed to explode. Russian officials have promised that examining two unexploded Tomahawks, salvaged by the Syrians and turned over to Moscow, would enable Russia would develop new jamming equipment. “Having this missile in hand, we can clearly understand what channels of communication, information and control, navigation and range finding it has. . . . And knowing all these parameters, we will be able to more effectively counter these cruise missiles at all stages of their combat deployment,” said Vladimir Mikheev, an adviser to the first deputy general director of Russia’s state-owned KRET electronics group.

Other Russian experts said that the Tomahawks would yield secrets of the latest missile navigation systems (one called it “a textbook on materials science, a textbook on technologies falling from the skies”). There’s a Russian video here, allegedly of Tomahawk debris, though it’s hard to be clear what we’re being shown or where the debris was found.

Perhaps Russia needs to crow about something: it’s not clear how many missiles its air defenses shot down (Russia claims many while the Pentagon claims none), and other than downing one F-16, Syria’s Russian-made air-defense missiles have proven ineffective against repeated Israeli air strikes.

But let’s assume Russia did in fact recover some Tomahawk missiles. Out of fifty-nine missiles launched at Syria in April, it is possible one or two failed to explode and were recovered. High-explosive weapons frequently don’t explode: 30 percent of the Allied artillery shells fired during World War I at the Battle of the Somme might have been duds, while modern cluster bombs have a dud rate as high as 20 percent.

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