Russia Tests New Kh-35U Unified Cruise Missile

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Written by Andrei Akulov; Originally appeared on strategic-culture.org

According to Russian media reports, the new Kh-35U, the most recent variant of the Kh-35 anti-ship missile, was successfully test-fired in late September at a naval test range belonging to the Pacific Fleet. A formation of eight unmanned vessels was the target used during the training. The launching platform was the Su-34 long-range strike plane. According to the Defense Ministry, “all in all, eight launches were carried out, and all the missiles successfully hit their targets.”

Russia Tests New Kh-35U Unified Cruise Missile

Illustrative image

Developed by Russia’s Tactical Missiles Corporation, the Kh-35U is a unified, subsonic, sea-skimming, anti-ship cruise missile that consists of its body, an active radar seeker, a high-explosive fragmentation penetrator warhead, an independent self-destruct system, an inertial navigation system, a radio altimeter, an air intake, a fuel system, a sustainer turbofan, and a solid-state rocket booster. With a range of 260 km (144 mi), it can take out surface ships with a displacement of 5,000 tons. It should be noted that its specs are superior to those of the US air-launched Naval Strike Missile, which has a range of only 100 nautical miles.

Its minimum range is 7 km, speed: Mach 0.8–Mach 0.95 (609–723 mph; 980–1,164 km/h), and flight altitude: 10-15 m en route and roughly 3 m in its terminal stage. Its warhead includes a 145 kg HE fragmentation shaped charge designed to pierce horizontally through bulkheads and compartments prior to exploding inside a ship. The warhead’s small diameter — 45.0 cm — allows it to be fitted on various means of delivery.

Weighing 550 kg, the Kh-35U can be installed on a variety of platforms, such as helicopters, surface ships, and coastal defense batteries. At present, it can be carried by several types of surface combatants, the Su-24M, Su-30SM, MiG-29K/KUB, Su-35S, and Tu-142 combat aircraft, and the Ka-52K helicopters. The decision to introduce the Kh-35U to the armament suite of the Su-35S (a 4++ generation, advanced capability, multirole air superiority fighter that has become the backbone of the Russian Aerospace Forces) was made in early September. It has also been integrated into the Bal coastal-defense missile system. The Kh-35U can attack land targets, including heavily fortified enemy positions, warehouses, and mobile military equipment. This is beyond what its predecessor, the Kh-35 jet-launched anti-ship cruise missile, was able to do.

Leader, the new Russian icebreaker, is capable of shattering ice up to 4.5 meters thick, which will keep the Northern Sea Route and Arctic coast open year-round. The vessel will be equipped with containers holding weapon systems, including the Kh-35U and Kalibr anti-ship missiles.

The Kh-35U features a normal aerodynamic configuration with cruciform wings and fins and a semi-submerged air duct intake. It’s a “fire and forget” weapon. Upon launch, the missile instantly finds its target and is independently guided toward it. It is controlled during flight by an inertial system. The ARGS-35E X-band terminal active radar homing head and  radio altimeter provide information during the final leg of the trajectory.  There have been reports that the Gran-KE, a new radar seeker, will replace the ARGS-35E in the future.

Target designation data is input from onboard organic and external sources, including those that are airborne.  Aerial unmanned and autonomous underwater vehicles can be used for targeting. The Kh-35U boasts improved guidance systems with a satellite navigation update and a more sensitive seeker with a range of 50 km.

Its small dimensions and sea-skimming capability greatly minimize the signatures of this weapon that can be employed under adverse weather conditions at sea states of up to 5-6, during the day or night, and while being subjected electronic countermeasures. The missile travels at an altitude of 10-15 meters. In the terminal stage of its flight it descends to 3-5 meters above the surface, or lower than the ship’s deck, in order to evade hostile defense systems.  This makes it extremely hard to hit, even if detected. Its dual-band active/passing homing guidance system allows it to bypass missile-defense interceptor systems, as well as advanced electronic jamming.

The Kh-35U is a formidable weapon, boasting both high speed as well as evasive terminal profiles. Many details remain classified, but there is little doubt the missile has effective ECCM, otherwise other countries would not want to purchase it — and they do. According to the Russian media the ship-based version is of special interest to potential buyers. The Kh-35U incorporation makes any platform a multifunctional warrior able to deliver lethal strikes against an enemy’s key assets.

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  • RichardD

    These missiles would be almost impossible to find in Iran and would make the gulf impassable.

    • Hisham Saber

      The Chinese have supplied Iran with variants of sea-skirmishing anti-ship missiles. Highly modified C-108’s and later versions are now in mass production in Iran. Believe me, if Iran wanted the Gulf closed, they could easily do it, and keep it closed.

      These type of wargames in the Gulf always favor Iran heavily. Its their waters, its their backyard. They will make it impassable, if necessary indefinitely.

      U.S. Battle groups will find maneuvering around the area extremely difficult to Irans location and mobility.

      • RichardD

        A big spike in oil prices would cause a lot of economic problems for the US and make any politicians supporting hostilities with Iran extremely unpopular. Which is why the no war with Iran for Israel resolution passed the US Congress by a unanimous vote. Which makes the US rhetoric against Iran look rather foolish.

        • Sinbad2

          It would be fatal for the US at this time.

        • Luke Hemmming

          The price of oil in Australia jumped from 80 to 89 in 1 week this week.

      • John Brown

        Iran still needs to greatly improve its air defences. They should buy many S-400s Pantasir etc and other components of a Russian integrated and multi layered air defense so their air defenses could not be overwhelmed, even if 1,500 USSA cruise missiles were fired all at once in one large attack.

        • paul ( original )

          Iran is often reported as being in the process of developing its own air defense systems. I obviously don’t know how reliable these reports and claims are. I would like to see some evidence, like having these weapons appear in Syria.
          I think with many weapons systems on all sides, their effectiveness will never be known until they face extreme tests in real combat. Could be that these tests are not too far into the future.

    • BMWA1

      At the Strait of Hormuz, I think WW2 heavy artillery will be enough :)

      • Sinbad2

        Exactly why waste money on a gun, when a club will do the job.
        Iran has caves dug into the cliffs along the Strait of Hormuz, so they are safe from American bombs.
        The reason the US only sanctions Iran, and doesn’t destroy it like all the other countries the US has destroyed, is Iran’s control of the Strait.
        Uncle Sam would die without his hit of Gulf dollars.

  • georgeking

    If Big War ever comes, it will be Bad Days for sailors.

    • Feudalism Victory

      Especially on carriers

    • Rob

      Trump says we escalate in the whole world butchering children along with their parents that nations buy billions of dollars weapons from us but these nations buying weapons from Russia and China. So Trump does not like the world nations these decisions.