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Surface Forces: Soviet Era Ship Killers Slipped Into Syria
   Next Article → ATTRITION: F-22s Uneasily Fly Again
November 22, 2011: Despite the growing civil war in Syria, Russia is honoring an order, earlier this year, for an unspecified number of SSN-26 Yakhont anti-ship missiles. The order was finally confirmed eight months ago, after four years of haggling and efforts by Israel and the United States to block the sale. Apparently the missiles have already been paid for, and Syrian has assured Russia that the missiles can safely be delivered by ship. Russia is happy for any sale, but seems particularly anxious for this missile to get some combat experience.

The Yakhont was under development throughout the 1990s, but was delayed by lack of funds. Now it's in production, and the Russians have been energetically seeking export sales. The Yakhont uses a liquid-fuel ramjet and travels 300 kilometers at speeds of over 2,000 kilometers an hour (using a high altitude cruise and a low-altitude approach; if it travels entirely at low altitude the range is cut to 120km). When the missile arrives in the area where the target is supposed to be, it turns on its radar and goes for the kill. Israel is the only one in the region the Yakhonts would be used against. However, because Iran is supplying (unofficially) the cash for the missiles, there is also the risk that some of the Yakhonts would end up in Iran for use against numerous targets in the Persian Gulf.

The ground based Yakhont can use truck mounted or fixed launchers, with up to 36 missiles supported by a land based search radar and helicopter mounted radars (to locate targets over the horizon). Once a target has been identified and located, one or two missiles are programmed with that location and launched. The Yakhont is a 8.9 meter (27.6 foot) long, three ton missile with a 300 kg (660 pound) warhead.

An improved version of the Yakhont, the PJ-10 BrahMos missile, was developed for India. The 9.4 meter (29 foot) long, 670mm diameter missile is an upgraded version of the Yakhont. Lacking money to finish development and begin production, the Russian manufacturer eventually made a deal with India to finish the job. India put up most of the $240 million needed to finally complete two decades of development, an effort which produced the long delayed Yakhont, and more capable BrahMos. The PJ-10 is being built in Russia and India, with the Russians assisting India in setting up manufacturing facilities for cruise missile components. Efforts are being made to export up to 2,000, but no one has placed an order yet. Russia and India are encouraged enough to invest in BrahMos 2, which will use a scramjet, instead of a ramjet, in the second stage. This would double speed, and make the missile much more difficult to defend against.

The 3.2 ton BrahMos has a range of 300 kilometers and a 300 kg warhead. Perhaps the most striking characteristic is its high speed, literally faster (at up to a kilometer per second) than a rifle bullet. The high price of each missile, about $2.3 million, restricts the number of countries that can afford it. The weapon entered service with the Indian navy in 2005. The maximum speed of 3,000 kilometers an hour makes it harder to intercept, and means it takes five minutes or less to reach its target. The air launched version weighs 2.5 tons, the others, three tons or more.

 

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