Air Weapons: Russians Get Stealthy

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October 25, 2007: Another result of the post-Cold War catch-up in the Russian air force is the appearance, hanging from a Tu95 heavy bomber, of the stealthy Kh-101 cruise missile. This weapon has been in development for nearly two decades, but most work was halted in the 1990s because of money shortages. Five years ago, there were reports that work had been resumed on the Kh-101.

Currently, Tu-160 and Tu-95MS heavy bombers are equipped to carry a dozen Kh-555 cruise missiles each. These missiles are upgrades of the Cold War era AS-15 nuclear cruise missile. The Kh-555 is 20 feet long, weighs 1.5 tons and has a range of 3,000 kilometers. An 800 pound conventional warhead appears to be a cluster bomb type (carrying bomblets). The missile uses inertial and satellite supplied guidance, and can hit within 100 meters of its aiming point. Russia says it will use these missiles to attack terrorist bases in foreign countries.

The Kh-101 has a new shape, and a radar absorbing skin, to make it more difficult for radar to detect it. Otherwise, the Kh-101 appears to have the same weight, range and payload of the Kh-55. Apparently, the Kh-101 isn't going to replace Kh-555 missiles, but complement, at least until the Kh-555s are too old to maintain, and are retired. That's a process that could take a decade or more.

 


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