August 25, 2011: For over a year now, a Russian firm (Morinformsystem-Agat JSC) has been marketing a version of the Klub cruise missile that can be carried in a 40 foot shipping container. The launcher and the missile have to slide out of the container before firing, thus limiting where it can be placed on a ship, particularly your typical container ship. But you could get two or three of these shipping container Klubs on most cargo ships, turning the vessel into warship. The shipping container can also be hauled around (like many such containers are) via truck or rail car and used to surprise someone you don’t like.
Called “Pandora’s Box”, the system comes with four Klub missiles, in sealed shipping and firing containers. Also in the container are communications and targeting equipment which the two man crew uses to program the missiles, operate the hydraulic system to raise the missiles, and fire them. The entire container is waterproof, and contains a satellite link for receiving target data, or whatever.
The 3M54 Klub missile was originally designed as the key weapon for the Kilo submarine. Weighing two tons, and fired from a 533mm (21 inch) torpedo tube, the 3M54 has a 200 kg (440 pound) warhead. The anti-ship version has a range of 300 kilometers, and speeds up to 3,000 kilometers an hour during its last minute or so of flight. There is also an air launched and ship launched version. A land attack version does away with the high speed final approach feature, and has an 400 kg (880 pound) warhead.
What makes the anti-ship version of the 3M54 particularly dangerous is its final approach, which begins when the missile is about 15 kilometers from its target. Up to that point, the missile travels at an altitude of about 32 meters (hundred feet). This makes the missile more difficult to detect. The "high speed approach" (via the use of additional rockets) means that it covers that last fifteen kilometers in less than twenty seconds. This makes it difficult for current anti-missile weapons to take it down.
It’s unusual for a firm to offer such a weapon for concealed transport on a merchant ship, truck or rail car. So far, there have not been any buyers, but the manufacturer says there have been many inquiries from foreign nations (none were identified). While these missiles are of questionable effectiveness in wartime, they would likely be much more potent if used for a surprise attack on a military or civilian target. Estimated price for each cargo container of Klubs is about $6 million.