On Oct. 7, Russian warships in the Caspian Sea fired 26 high-tech cruise missiles at rebel targets in Syria—a staggering 1,000 miles away. The missiles in question, which the Pentagon calls SS-N-30s, were mostly unknown to the outside world before the Oct. 7 raid. Even close watchers of the Russian military were surprised to see them. The missile attack was also highly visible. In many ways, it was an announcement to the world, and America in particular, that the once-dilapidated Russian navy is back in action—and that Putin’s missileers are now among the planet’s most advanced.

Planning for the missile attack began on Oct. 5, six days after Moscow’s warplanes conducted their first bombing runs on rebel holdouts in western Syria. Russia is intervening in Syria ostensibly to help the Damascus regime defeat the so-called Islamic State widely known as ISIS, but the Russian attacks seem to be hitting ISIS’s enemies more than the terror army itself. What’s more, critics point out, Syria provides Moscow strategic access to the Mediterranean Sea.

“Russian reconnaissance had discovered a number of important objects of militants, which were to be destroyed immediately,” the Russian Defense Ministry explained in a statement. Drones, surveillance satellites, radio interception, and human spies on the ground helped planners select the targets, the ministry added. “The strikes engaged plants producing ammunition and explosives, command centers, storages of munitions, armament, and [oil], as well as a training camp of terrorists on the territory of Raqqa, Idlib, and Aleppo,” according to the ministry. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the missiles struck all 11 planned targets. CONTINUE