Surface Forces: Showdown In The Bay Of Bengal


November 5,2008: Bangladesh and neighboring Myanmar are in a naval standoff over who owns the right to search for, and extract, natural gas and oil along their maritime boundaries. Myanmar was unwilling to wait for the diplomats to sort it all out, and leased some of the disputed tracts to a South Korean company, which sent out four survey ships, accompanied by two Myanmar warships. They were met by four Bangladeshi warships. The weapons embarked on these ships consisted of 3 and 4.5 inch guns, and Chinese Silkworm and C802 anti-ship missiles. The largest Bangladeshi ship is a half century old former British frigate.

Neither of these nations is a naval superpower. Both fleets are largely composed of patrol boats, many armed with those ubiquitous Chinese anti-ship missiles. Each nation is believed to have a frigate or corvette sized ship at the scene, as well as some missile armed patrol boats. If it came to violence, the C802 missiles could make quick work of ships on both sides. The older missiles, less so.

The last time the C-802 was used in combat, was two years ago, against an Israeli warship. Two C-802s were fired at an 1,100 ton Israeli corvette off the coast of Lebanon. One hit the helicopter hanger, but the warhead failed to go off. The fire on the Israeli ship was caused by the half a ton of missile crashing into it, and unburned rocket fuel. The other C-802 homed in on a nearby Egyptian merchant ship, and sank it (the warhead on that one did detonate). The Israeli anti-missile system was not turned on because it was found to interfere with the electronics on Israeli warplanes operating in the vicinity. This is also an increasing problem in modern warfare. There are so many electronic gadgets transmitting, that there are more cases of signals, literally, getting crossed.

The C-802 is a 20 foot long, 360mm, 1,500 pound missile with a 360 pound warhead. The Israeli warship carries electronic defenses against anti-ship missiles, as well as a Phalanx auto-cannon. This systems is supposed to be turned on whenever the ship is likely to have an anti-ship missile fired at it. The Phalanx radar can spot incoming missiles out to about 5,000 meters, and the 20mm cannon is effective out to about 2,000 meters. With incoming missiles moving a 250 meters a second, you can see why Phalanx is set to automatic. There's not much time for human intervention. The Bangladeshi and Myanmar ships don't appear to have any missile defenses.

The C-802 needs to work with a radar that can track the target. The C-802 fired in Lebanon apparently used Lebanese government coastal radars for this. The Bangladeshi and Myanmar ships warships have radar on board for this. The C-802 is 30 year old technology, and many of them are quite old. With age comes reliability problems. Bangladesh has many older models of Chinese anti-ship missiles (like the half ton SY-1 Silkworm), and these have been unused for quite some time.


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