New Kh-32 Antiship Missile Becomes Operational in Russia - part 1

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 1 Close up picture of a X-32 anti-ship missile during a test flight with a Tu-22M3 bomber in summer-autumn 2013 (original photo by Sergei Lysenko,

The Raduga Maritime Design Bureau has been developing the missile since 1998. It is a deep modernization of the well-known Kh-22 which made the maiden flight in 1963, was accepted into service in 1968 and is still operational. It has the hull of the predecessor. The size and weight of Kh-32 are the same. It weighs close to 5800 kg, is 12 meters long with a one-meter diameter and a three-meter wingspan. It is carried on the same suspensions as Kh-22. Open sources said the warhead is lighter. On Kh-22 it weighs 900 kg and the new one weighs 500 kg. The empty space is used to carry additional fuel.

Kh-32 has a more effective and powerful engine. It is distinguished by a new radar targeting system with radio command adjustment according to terrain relief by altimeter. Kh-22 homing warhead operates by a set of fixed frequencies. The problems of electromagnetic compatibility limit the number of missiles in a salvo, and the missile is extremely vulnerable to modern electronic warfare means. Kh-32 controls are free of the drawbacks. Experts said the weapon is highly protected from jamming by the latest emission sources.

The trajectory has three sections: the launch one to reach the cruising altitude, the cruising one when Kh-32 flies at the 40-km ceiling, and the final one when it nosedives to attack.

Experts believe Kh-32 can lock on the target from under the aircraft wing which allows the operator to select the target. However, the range of 600-1000 km does not provide such a possibility as the distance is too big for the warhead to detect and track the target. The radars of the carrier, reconnaissance or AEW aircraft cannot do it.

New Kh 32 Antiship Missile Becomes Operational in Russia 2Tu-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,

The range of the homing warhead is 200-300 km. The operator selects the target after detecting a group of adversary warships (radar-contrast ground targets) and sends a radio command. Vulkan missiles and their predecessors Basalt operate by the same principle on project 1164 cruisers.

It is clear the fire range in the technical assignment should allow to strike without entering the air defense of the aircraft-carrying formation. The longest interception range of seaborne US aircraft on duty in the air is 700 kilometers from the carrier when aimed by AWACS (E-2S Hawkai and E-3 various modifications). It means Kh-32 range should be 800 km (experts say 600 to 1000 km). It is quite possible as Kh-22 flew for over 350 km yet in early 1960s. A more powerful engine and two times higher ceiling will boost the speed. Experts estimate the cruising speed at 5400 km/h.

As a result, it is an antiship missile launched from an altitude of 1 to 13 thousand meters and flying at an altitude of some 40 km at a speed of 1500 meters per second. The missile does not meet modern stealth requirements.

Let us analyze the capabilities of the latest and most powerful air defense of the US Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers and Arleigh-Burke-class destroyers with Aegis information-control system and the latest Standard-6 antiaircraft guided missiles. The missile (RIM-174 SM-6 ERAM) became operational in the US Navy in 2013. It is distinguished by an active radar homing warhead which allows to fire and forget the missile. It increases the effectiveness of engagement against low flying targets also beyond the horizon and allows destroying targets by outside aiming data, e.g. from an AWACS aircraft.

The Standard-6 launch weight is 1500 kg, the range is 240 km and the maximum altitude is 33 km. The speed is Mach 3.5 or nearly a thousand meters per second.
Maximum maneuvering overload is 50g. The warhead is kinetic (for ballistic targets) or fragmentation (for aerodynamic targets), weighs 125 kg which is twice as much as the previous missiles of the family.
Maximum speed of the attacked aerodynamic target is estimated at 800 meters per second. The hit probability by one missile at an aerodynamic target is 0.95.

The comparison of Kh-32 and Standard-6 shows the flying section of Kh-32 is seven kilometers above the top destruction level of the US missile and nearly two times surpasses its maximum speed for aerodynamic targets: 1500 against 800 meters per second.

But that does not mean the United States will not fire at hypersonic missiles. The Aegis system can detect them and provide aiming information as it is capable of missile and even satellite defense. Therefore, Standard-6 will be engaged, but it remains to see how effectively.

The hit probability characteristics are usually provided for ranges where the target does not maneuver and flies at the best speed for its destruction. In real combat the hit probability is usually lower due to aiming specifics which are limited by the speed of the maneuvering target and its altitude. The hit capability of Standard-6 will be affected also by the detection range of the active homing warhead, the precision of the approach to target lock-on area, admissible maneuvering overload and atmosphere density, as well as errors in determining the movement specifics of the target by radars and information-control systems. All the factors determine the main thing - whether the missile can contact and select the miss distance to a level which will guarantee the warhead hitting the maneuvering target.