Russia is developing a long-range cruise missile that poses a new threat to the United States, the commander of the U.S. Northern Command warned this week.

“Russia is progressing toward its goal of deploying long-range, conventionally-armed cruise missiles with ever increasing stand-off launch distances on its heavy bombers, submarines, and surface combatants, augmenting the Kremlin’s toolkit of flexible deterrent options short of the nuclear threshold,” Adm. William Gortney, Northcom chief who heads the U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said Thursday.

“Should these trends continue, over time NORAD will face increased risk in our ability to defend North America against Russian cruise missile threats,” he said in prepared testimony to the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces.

A defense official said the missile that concerns the Northcom commander is the Russian KH-101 cruise missile which Russia has developed as a weapon to attack critical infrastructure in the United States, such as the electrical grid.

The comments highlight what defense officials and military analysts say is the growing threat of long-range cruise missiles.

Cruise missiles pose unique threats because they can defeat defenses by flying at low altitudes, avoiding radars, and hiding behind terrain. Some newer cruise missiles have radar-evading stealth features making them even less visible to radar or infrared detectors.

The low-flying missiles also can overwhelm defenses by attacking with multiple missiles coming from different directions and defeating air defenses at their weakest points. They also can fly circuitous routes to reach targets, avoiding radar and air defenses.

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