Subtle, supersonic and autonomous missiles capable of penetrating missile defense systems and hunting individual ships. The most interesting anti-ship missiles put into service and under development.
After a long period of rapid innovation and bold inventions, anti-ship missile work in the West was practically stopped in the face of the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the global war on terror. With a renewed emphasis on land operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, the western fleets fell into oblivion.
As a result, the naval forces began to prioritize support for ground forces and operations in the coastal zone. Today naval wars have practically come down to 9,000-ton destroyers fighting light pirate boats.
However, rising U. S. tensions with Russia and China have shown that war at sea between ships could return. And along with this, the need to search for and sink enemy ships may again appear.
A new generation of anti-ship missiles (ASM) is looming on the horizon. These are stealthy, supersonic and autonomous missiles capable of penetrating missile defense systems and hunting individual ships. Let's take a look at some of the more interesting anti-ship missiles, both in service and in development.
The BrahMos anti-ship missile got its name from the Brahmaputra and Moscow rivers. This is a development of a Russian-Indian joint venture. BrahMos was created in the 1990s and early 2000s, and it became one of the few anti-ship missiles that appeared at that time. This missile is currently in service with the Indian Armed Forces.
BrahMos is the fastest low-altitude rocket in the world. She has two steps. The first, consisting of a solid-propellant rocket engine, gives it acceleration and brings it to supersonic speed. The second stage, with a ramjet engine, accelerates the rocket to a speed corresponding to Mach 2, 8. According to available information, this rocket flies at a height of only 10 meters above the wave crest, which is why it was nicknamed the "water cutter". The BrahMos launch range is 290 kilometers.
It is a versatile missile that can be deployed on surface ships, used in coastal anti-ship missile batteries, and launched from aircraft such as the Su-30MK1, which are in service with the Indian Air Force. An air-launched missile has an even greater range and is 500 kilometers. An option for launching from submarines is currently being considered, but its development has not begun due to lack of interest.
"BrahMos" has a solid striking power: land-based and ship-based missiles have a 200-kilogram warhead, while the air-based version has a warhead weight of 300 kilograms. But even without a warhead, this anti-ship missile at a speed with Mach 2, 8 has colossal kinetic energy and impact force on the target.
The high speed of the BrahMos missile, stealth characteristics, and the ability to fly at extremely low altitudes allow it to evade enemy missile defense systems. If we assume that the defender's radar is at an altitude of 20 meters, it will detect this missile at a distance of 27 kilometers. In this case, the enemy will have only 28 seconds to accompany it, highlight and destroy it before the BrahMos strikes the ship.
LRASM long-range anti-ship missile
The US Navy needs a new anti-ship missile. The Harpoon missile was adopted in 1977. If during the Cold War it was one of the best anti-ship missiles, now the Harpoon rocket has aged and turned into an ordinary and mediocre weapon, unable to incorporate the latest technological advances into its design.
The LRASM long-range anti-ship missile is a prime candidate to replace the Harpoon. The LRASM is an evolution of the JASSM-ER cruise missile and shares many design features with it. Developed by Lockheed Martin, the JASSM-ER is a stealth, anti-jamming missile with a range of 800 kilometers. JASSM-ER is designed for autonomous target detection and destruction. It can deliver a penetrating charge weighing 450 kilograms to the target with an accuracy of hitting within three meters. This missile can be mounted on most US Air Force strike aircraft.
In its principle of operation, LRASM differs from such missiles as "BrahMos". Instead of ensuring the invulnerability of the missile for missile defense at the expense of high speed, the designers used principles in the subsonic LRASM such as stealth and independence in making decisions about avoiding shipborne anti-aircraft systems. LRASM independently identifies important targets, and then aims at them.
It should be expected that the range of the LRASM will be about the same as that of the JASSM-ER. If the Harpoon missile has a launch range of slightly more than 100 kilometers, then the LRASM will have an estimated range of 800 kilometers, which significantly increases the radius of fire damage to American naval aviation and ship platforms.
Unlike the Harpoon missile, the LRASM is suitable for launching Ticonderoga-class cruisers, Burke-class destroyers, and Mk. 57, with which the new Zumwalt-class destroyers are equipped. This allows ships to carry many more anti-ship missiles on board than before, although this capability will negatively impact the number of other missiles such as the SM-6 surface-to-air missiles and ASROC anti-submarine missiles.
Club (anti-ship variant 3M-54E1)
Club is an anti-ship missile of the Russian Navy, belonging to the family of weapons with a single body. It is a versatile system with numerous options capable of fighting ships (3M-54E1), ground targets and submarines. The Club rocket is exported to Algeria, China and India.
There are four versions of this rocket. The Club-S is launched from a 533mm torpedo tube, the standard diameter for submarines around the world. Club-N is designed to be launched from surface ships, Club M is a land-based missile, and Club K is launched from installations disguised as sea containers.
The Club has a first stage with a solid-propellant engine that launches a rocket from a launcher and brings it to cruising altitude. After the combustion of the first stage, the cruise turbojet engine is turned on. The latest anti-ship version of the ZM-54E1 missile is aimed at the target through an active radar homing head, GLONASS global positioning system and built-in navigation systems. The ZM-54E1 warhead weighs 400 kilograms.
Being a cruise missile, the ZM-54E1 usually flies at a speed corresponding to Mach 0, 8, and at an altitude of 10-15 meters. In some versions, in the area of approach to the target, the missile is accelerated to supersonic with Mach 2, 9, which reduces the response time for the response of enemy air defense systems.
The maximum range of the ZM-54E1 missile is 300 kilometers. Of course, it is just a coincidence that its range is the maximum allowed for cruise missiles under the missile technology control regime. The Missile Technology Control Regime is a non-proliferation agreement designed to limit the range of nuclear-capable missiles, and Russia is a party to it.
The manufacturer of the Morinformsistema-Agat rocket caused shock in 2010 when it announced the creation of a version of the Club K rocket housed in a standard sea container. The launcher, which can be transported by container ship, railroad platform or truck, carries four missiles. The creators of Club K never explained why the legally operating military would disguise the missile system as a cargo container. The launcher has raised concerns that rogue countries such as Iran (which eventually took an interest in it) or terrorists who have the ability to transport weapons in plain sight have emerged from it.
Japan's purely defensive military doctrine requires ships, aircraft and ground batteries to be equipped with only small anti-ship missiles. Japan has designed and manufactured two generations of anti-ship missiles that meet these requirements. However, the third generation rocket is likely to be significantly different from previous designs.
The XASM-3 is an anti-ship missile currently being jointly developed by the Japanese Government's Technical Research Institute and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. At the moment, little is known about this missile, but if it goes into production, it will be a significant step forward in building up the combat potential of Japan's Self-Defense Forces.
The XASM-3 will be a hypersonic solid-propellant rocket with an integrated ramjet engine operating at speeds up to Mach 5. The rocket will have stealth characteristics. Like BrahMos, the XASM-3 will use its speed to reduce response and intercept times. Having the same parameters of combat use as that of the BrahMos, the XASM-3 will give the enemy only 15 seconds to respond.
This missile will have active and passive homing heads. The weight of the rocket will be 860 kilograms, but nothing is known about the weight of its warhead. It is expected to have a flight range of about 200 kilometers.
The rocket will be suspended from a Japanese-made F-2 fighter. Other carriers of the XASM-3 could be the Kawasaki P-1 naval patrol aircraft and the F-35A fighter jet. Most likely, the XASM-3 will not fit into the F-35's internal armament bay, and it will have to be placed on an external sling, making this aircraft easier to detect.
The development of the XASM-3 was started in 2002, and the completion of work is expected in 2016 - with a delay of six years. Then Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will have to decide whether or not it will launch the rocket into mass production. If production starts, it is possible that the missile will receive a permit for export to friendly countries.
Anti-ship missile Naval Strike Missile
Developed by the Norwegian company Kongsberg, the manufacturer calls the Naval Strike Missile (naval strike missile) the world's first fifth-generation anti-ship missile.
A solid-propellant rocket engine is used as a starting booster, after which a turbojet engine is turned on on the cruising section. The rocket flies at extremely low altitude. Judging by the video recordings, the height of its flight over the crest of the wave is less than 10 meters. There is no information about the speed, but most likely it is subsonic, close to supersonic.
Kongsberg calls its missile "completely passive", meaning that it has no active detection and tracking devices. The missile does not emit infrared and radar waves that can detect enemy ships. Weighing less than 410 kilograms, the Naval Strike Missile is the smallest missile on this list. The missile's range is 185 kilometers, and the warhead weighs 125 kilograms.
The missile is currently used by the Norwegian Navy on Skjold-class missile boats and on Fritjof Nansen-class destroyers. It is also used by the Polish army in its coastal artillery units.
In October 2014, the US Navy conducted a test launch of the Naval Strike Missile from the flight deck of the Coronado coastal defense ship. The tests were successful with a direct hit on a conditional target. They were carried out as part of a foreign weapons test program, and this does not mean that the Navy will necessarily acquire the Naval Strike Missile.
A variant of the Naval Strike Missile called Joint Strike Missile is currently under development. The Joint Strike Missile can be used from the air against ground targets and as an anti-ship missile. In addition, judging by its size, it can be placed in the internal weapons compartment of the F-35. It will also fit a standard 533mm submarine torpedo tube. The Joint Strike Missile missile is scheduled to enter service in 2023.
Kyle Mizokami lives in San Francisco; his articles have been published in publications such as The Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring, and the Daily Beast. In 2009, he co-founded the Japan Security Watch blog.