Artillery: Smaller, Lighter, Cheaper, Faster

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October 14, 2021: In early 2021 a Chinese firm revealed a new supersonic cruise missile called HD-1. It uses a novel solid-fuel ram jet to achieve speeds of 750 to 1,200 meters a second to hit targets up to 300 kilometers distant. This propulsion system is lighter and more compact than existing ramjet systems. HD-1 can be programmed to fly as high as 15,000 meters (48,000 feet) or as low as ten meters (30 feet) for use against surface ships. The one-ton HD-1 is 8.3-meterss (27 feet) long, 375mm in diameter and can carry a warhead weighing 240 kg (530 pounds) to 400 kg (800 pounds). The heavier warhead reduces range and speed and would be used for ground targets. The standard HD-1 is described as a carrier-killer although it would require several HD-1 to disable or destroy a large carrier. One HD-1 could disable a smaller warship like corvettes, frigates or destroyers. Multiple HD-1s can be carried by a TEL (Transporter Erector launcher) vehicle or launched from aircraft or ships. HD-1 is also half the price of its main rival, the Indo-Russian BrahMos. The HD-1 is being offered to whoever can pay for it, while BrahMos sales are restricted to nations considered friendly by India.

Since 2006 India has been delivering the PJ-10 BrahMos missile to its armed forces. BrahMos is a 2.5 to 4-ton missile with a range of 300 kilometers and a 250 kg (550 pound) warhead. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of the BrahMos is its high speed, literally faster (at up to 1,000 meters per second) than a rifle bullet. BrahMos was a joint Russian-Indian project and both countries offer the PJ-10 BrahMos cruise missile to export customers. PJ-10 can be launched from a truck or from an aircraft ship or submarine. 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 because of the need for a booster rocket to get it into the air. The nine-meter (29 foot) long, 700mm diameter missile is an upgraded version of the Russian SS-NX-26 (Yakhont) missile, which was in development when the Cold War ended in 1991. Lacking money to finish development and begin production, the Russian manufacturer 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. The PJ-10 is built in Russia, with India as the initial customer. Several countries, including China and Iran, expressed interest in the weapon but were discouraged by the price because each PJ-10 cost about $2.3 million. China was eventually banned from buying BrahMos because of increased hostilities with India. In 2019 major upgrades to BrahMos were announced. First there is a new propulsion system that extends range to 450 kilometers and increases speed by 25 percent. There is also an upgraded terminal (short range) guidance system that will ensure the missile hits the right target when there are several in the vicinity. It was also revealed that work was under way to design a lighter (1.5 ton) and cheaper version of BrahMos. The model will not be available until 2023 at the earliest while HD-1 is shipping now.

 


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