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New Kh-32 Antiship Missile Becomes Operational in Russia - part 2

The new missiles announced by President Vladimir Putin draw a major attention. However, they are either non-operational yet or undergoing test operations or trials. In 2016 the aniship Kh-32 missile for Tu-22M3 bombers became operational. Its high characteristics considerably changed the balance on oceanic and sea theaters of warfare, expert Konstantin Sivkov writes in the Military-Industrial Courier.

New Kh 32 Antiship Missile Becomes Operational in Russia 2 Tu-22M3 number 9804 in flight test with 2x Kh-32 in 2013. Designed to break the enemy's air defense and attack carrier battle groups, Russian media reported that the missiles are able to exchange information after launch via datalink and able to withstand 20mm gun fire as well as small surface to air missiles. Photo by Sergei Lysenko,

Open sources provide no data on the range of Standard-6 homing warhead. The size and weight of the missile can suggest that it can see an aircraft with five square kilometer effective echoing ratio at a distance of 15-20km. Kh-32 missile effective echoing ratio is 0.5 square kilometers, so the range of Strandard-6 warhead is 8-12 kilometers. The fire at attacking antiship missiles will be naturally held at head-on courses. It means the missiles will approach each other at a speed of 2200-2330 meters per second which leaves only three-four seconds for the approaching maneuver. The hit probability is low specifically at altitudes above the limit where rarefied atmosphere considerably decreases maneuvering capabilities. It means Standard-6 has to be launched with an error not exceeding 30-40 meters to successfully hit Kh-32 at the flying section. The hit probability of a nosediving KH-32 in the dense layers of the atmosphere is also limited by little time of the flight to the mission point - 20 seconds.

Calculations show the hit probability of Kh-32 by one Standard-6 can hardly exceed 0.05-0.08 even in favorable conditions and aiming directly from the carrier. Hit probability by data from an AWACS aircraft is close to zero (0.01-0.02) because of errors in determining the location of the carrier and the targeting source and the time to exchange information. It means the most effective US and NATO Standard-6 missile has a low capability to hit Kh-32. One can object and say the Americans fired from a Ticonderoga-class cruiser and hit a satellite flying at a speed of 27 thousand km/h at an altitude of 240 km. But it did not maneuver and its position was precisely determined after a long observation which helped bring the missile directly to the target. There will be no such possibilities in repelling an attack by a maneuvering Kh-32.

It is necessary to estimate the probability of Ticonderoga-class cruiser or Arleigh-Burke-class destroyer to hit Kh-32. The range of their radars to detect Kh-32 at an altitude of 40 km can be estimated at 230-270 km. It means the missile will approach the target in less than three minutes after it is detected. The Aegis system operational time is 30-35 seconds between the detection and launch. In the remaining time two universal Mk.41 launchers can fire 20-30 guided missiles capable of destroying the attacking Kh-32.

The hit probability by Vulcan Phalanx is next to nothing. Therefore, Ticonderoga or Arleigh-Burke can potentially destroy one of two Kh-32. It means two such warships can destroy two-four Kh-32.

New Kh 32 Antiship Missile Becomes Operational in Russia 3Close up picture of a X-32 anti-ship missile during a test flight with a Tu-22M3 bomber in July 2013 (original photo by Vitaly Yurtayev,

There is also electronic warfare of active deception and passive jamming. There is sufficient time for it and their complex engagement can disrupt the targeting to a major extent. The operational time of electronic warfare weapons of a warship and their expected efficiency result in a maximum probability hit of 0.3-0.4. In case of fire at a group it is highly probable that the homing warhead would lock on another target. During Falkland hostilities a British aircraft carrier engaged passive jamming and the attacking Exoset missile changed the target and hit and sank the Atlantic Conveyers container ship. Kh-32 speed may leave no time for another warship in a formation on which the warhead may lock to engage electronic warfare and divert it.

It means a group of two cruisers or destroyers is incapable of repelling a strike from two Tu-22M3 bombers carrying two Kh-32 missiles each even in favorable conditions. At least one warship would be damaged with a 0.6-0.7 probability. A strike by a wing of three aircraft with six Kh-32 will definitely destroy both warships.

A salvo of 24 Kh-32 at an aircraft-carrying force would be fatal. The probability to destroy or sink an aircraft carrier with two-three escort ships is 0.75-0.85. Russian aircraft will attack from outside the operational zone of adversary seaborne fighter jets. It means a strike by 12 Tu-22M3 with two missiles each will be sufficient to destroy an aircraft-carrying force with a high probability.

A group of two-three aircraft carriers can be destroyed by a strike of two regiments of Tu-22M3 with 72 Kh-32. They can fire from a distance of two-three thousand kilometers from the Russian coast, i.e. long before the aircraft-carrying force arrives at the distance of seaborne aircraft engagement.

Even limited long-range aviation forces can considerably neutralize US aircraft-carrying formations. However, they have to be properly aimed at the targets and defended from adversary coastal fighter jets. If it is not provided, the Kh-32 potential will not be implemented.

The United States is actively developing hypersonic missiles but so far there is no data about the design of weapons similar to Kh-32. Russia is likely to dominate in the sphere for ten years and more.
Still it is necessary to arm the aviation with a sufficient number of such missiles. The troops need at least 250-300 of them. But the navy and the air force are unlikely to get such a number of missiles because of the state of the economy and the defense industry, as well as upcoming conversion. It means Kh-32 will remain an excellent but rare Russian weapon.

The serial production of Kh-32 means a revolution in the naval arts. The relative parity in the offense-defense balance will be replaced by a situation when the attack potential will considerably surpass the defense capability.

The review analyzed the most perfect foreign arms. The capabilities of other weapons are considerably inferior to Aegis and Standard-6.

It is necessary to design new methods and forms of naval warfare, in particular, the destruction of surface forces of the adversary and promotion of combat sustainability of your own forces. Adequate increase of the air defense potential of warships will likely demand to review the conceptual basis of such systems. It will take 10-15 years or may be more, expert Konstantin Sivkov writes in the Military-Industrial Courier.