Weapons: Chinese Anti-Ship Missiles in Lebanon


July 18, 2006: Chinese C-802 ("Silkworm") anti-ship missiles were fired at an Israeli Saar class corvette off the Lebanese coast recently. Four of the crew were killed after the 20 foot long, 360mm, 1,500 pound missile hit the rear of the ship, destroying the helicopter pad, and starting a fire that took hours to extinguish. The C-802 has a 360 pound warhead, which must have been defective or detonated prematurely. That's because the Saars displace only 1,100 tons, are 281 feet long and have a crew of 61. The Saar carries dozens of missiles, and lots of fuel for its turbine engine, so it is unlikely that the S-802 scored a direct hit. This would have destroyed a ship the size of a Saar 5.

The Saar 5s carry a 20mm Phalanx auto cannon for knocking down anti-ship missiles, and, in this case, the Phalanx may have only been partially successful. A second C-802, fired at the same time, locked onto a near by Egyptian freighter, and sank it. Both ships were about 60 kilometers off the coast. The C-820 has a max range of 120 kilometers, and moves along at about 250 meters a second. Phalanx is supposed to be turned on whenever the ship is likely to have an anti-ship missile fired at it. The 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 Israelis are not releasing any information about how their defenses (including the electronic ones) handled the incoming C-802s.

Iran bought 150 C-802s from China in the early 1990s, but shipments were halted in 1995 because of diplomatic pressure from the United States. Iran is believed to be building its own version of the C-802, which is 30 year old technology. Several years ago, it was reported that C-802s had been shipped to Hizbollah. The C-802 needs a radar to spot the target at long distance, and guide the C-802 to the general vicinity of the target. In this case, the Lebanese government coastal radar apparently was used. As a result, Israel destroyed the Lebanese coastal radars after the use of these two C-802 missiles.