New Russian anti-ship missile – no international agreements violated
Designers at the Russian Mashinostroyeniye research and manufacture association Reutovo, a suburban town near Moscow, arrived at the conclusion in the mid-1980s that the countries which had purchased first-generation cruise missiles in the 1970s and the 1980s would need to modernize their missiles in five years' time. Anti-ship missiles made in the U.S., France, Italy and Russia, acquired in large numbers by navies throughout the world, have grown outdated morally and physically. Modern air defense means installed on board ships can easily locate and destroy them.
The first-generation missiles could have been replaced by missiles of the next generation, but their export is prevented under international agreements on nonproliferation of missile technologies. The Mashinostroyeniye designers decided to solve this problem without violating international nonproliferation agreements and fill the export gap. And an anti-ship cruise missile of the fourth generation, named Yakhont, has been developed. Different types of carriers can deliver this unique missile.
Yakhont combines the main qualities of future anti-ship - it has small weight and size, it is invisible for modern radars (Stealth technologies), it flies at supersonic speed and is guided autonomously on a "shot-forgot" principle.
Yakhont is an operational and tactical missile. It is designed for hitting complex targets. The new Russian missile can be used against both a single medium ship of the destroyer type and against an aircraft-carrier force.
The Yakhont designers wanted not just to develop high combat qualities but also to make its use and maintenance as cheap as possible. Its original airframe allowed them to increase its aerodynamic properties and diminish its diameter.
Yet another new technical innovation is its transport and launching container, which is adapted to most different carriers, and any modification of the missile can be kept in it up to three years. A technical inspection and diagnostics of the missile's mechanisms can be carried out through a special joint on its body.
The universal missile weights only 3 tons, and it can be placed in all kinds of ships or launches of Russian or foreign make. Its guidance system can be used with various types of carriers. If installed on a ship being modernized, three containers with Yakhont missiles can replace a single launching position of an "old" cruise missile. For instance, when modernizing a boat of the 1241 Tarantul project, which was sold well to dozens of countries in the Soviet years, its four P-15 Termit missiles may be replaced with 12 Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles.
When such a missile leaves its launching container, a sold-fuel booster device, installed in the combustion chamber of the sustainer, is switched on. The missile is thus boosted to a speed of 2 Machs. After that the booster unit is switched off, it is ejected from the sustainer by the oncoming air flow, and a Yakhont continues its flight at the speed of 2.5 Machs due to the operation of a direct-flow liquid-fuel air-breathing engine.
The missile's flight range is up to 300 km if it flies along a combined altitude trajectory, and the range is120 km if altitudes range 5 to 15 meters. It passes the main part of its flight at the altitude of 15 km.
A Yakhont missile is guided towards a target by an inertia navigational system using the target-indicating data put into it before launching. At a pre-set point of the trajectory (25-80 km), a target-seeking device determines precisely the location of a target. The target seeker is switched on again after a missile trajectory declines sharply down to 5 to 15 meters, at the moment when a few second are left before hitting a target.
The Yakhont designers assume that at a distance of 300 km the enemy may detect a missile launching and do whatever necessary to destroy the missile. But being "deaf" to jamming a Yakhont missile, flying at a speed of 750 meters per second and performing complex tactical maneuvering during the flight, will reach its target anyway. No navy in the world has effective means against the Russian missile.
According to military sources, the Russian Yakhont-Onyx ship wreckers are being installed on two Russian vessels - a submarine and a surface ship, which are currently under construction. It is supposed to be used in coastal Bastion anti-ship defense mobile systems moving on motor vehicle chassis. Designers now concentrate on developing a system making it possible to install the missiles on aircraft of the Su-27 and Su-35 types (an aircraft type of such a missile weighs 2.5 tons). So, these Su planes can carry up to three missiles each and use them against both naval and coastal targets.
Military analysts believe that the Yakhont cruise missile will remain unparalleled in the world at least during a decade. This forecast is confirmed by the interest currently displayed by foreign purchasers. A number of countries in the Asian and Pacific region and the Middle East, which purchased Russian ships and boats armed with cruise missiles, have shown interest in Yakhont. Good prospects open up before it also when ships of a foreign make are to be modernized and it can replace U.S., French, or Italian anti-ship missiles.
According to Herbert Yefremov, chief designer of Mashinostroyeniye, it is important for Russia to secure a place on the international market of cruise missiles. Experts assess the demands on the market at 7,000 missiles and the cost of deals may exceed $14 billion.