Procurement: July 10, 2005

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The new reform government in Ukraine has confirmed that the former, rather corrupt, administration illegally shipped twelve AS-15 cruise missiles to Iran in 2001. Another six were sold to China. The AS-15 is a 1970s design, similar in performance to the  U.S. AGM-86 Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM ). The AS-15 looks very much like the U.S. BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles. The AS-15 entered Soviet service in the 1980s. The 1.7 ton missiles have a range of 2,500 kilometers and can be carried and launched by bomber aircraft. Ukraine's former government was long suspected of exporting Russian weapons and military equipment. This high tech stuff was inherited from the Soviet Union after the 1991 breakup. The new, West-leaning, Ukrainian government says it has stopped the sales of these high-tech weapons. However, Belarus, to the north, is still run by a bunch of crooks, and has long been known as a hospitable for illegal arms dealers.

The AS-15s are not really useful as weapons, as their shelf life expired in 2003, and anyone trying to use them now would probably just get one system failure or another that would prevent the missile from reaching its target. But the missiles provide good models for those wishing to build their own cruise missiles. That certainly includes Iran and China. The AS-15 normally carries a nuclear warhead, but these were not supplied with the missiles sent to Iran and China. The guidance system on the AS-15 is also effective only for a nuclear weapon (the missiles will land within 500 feet of the aim point.) However, one could equip a cruise missile, based on the AS-15, with more accurate GPS guidance, and a 900 pound, high explosive warhead. 

 


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