Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Russian Yakhont Missile to deploy on Syria's Coastline?

David Eshel writes

The recent delivery of an advanced Russian-made anti-ship missile to Iran has Israeli defense officials concerned it will be transferred to Syria and Hizbullah and used against the Israel Navy in a future conflict. According to media reports, the P-800 Yakhont, the supersonic cruise missile can be launched from the coast and hit sea-borne targets up to 300 kilometers away. The missile carries a 200-kilogram warhead and flies a meter-and-a-half above sea level, making it extremely difficult to intercept.

The supersonic P-800 Yakhont (Gem) is a ramjet version of P-80 Zubr (SS-N-7 Starbright). The ship, submarine and coastal-launched Yakhont is launched from the unified ampoule-shaped transport-launching container (TLC). The container is 9 m long, 10.71m in diameter. The firing range reaches 300 km (162 nmi.) when flying along a combined trajectory and 120 kg (265 lb.) when following only a low-altitude trajectory. Flight speed varying over the range from M=2.0 to M=2.5 is provided by the kerosene-fueled multi-mode liquid-fuel ramjet. The P-800 Bolid is the encapsulated, submarine launched version of Yakhont. An air-launched version of the missile with the take-off weight of 2,500 kg (5,507 lb.) is also being developed. The closest American counterparts, the Tomahawk and Harpoon missiles, are subsonic; the best French antiship missile, the Exocet, has a range of only 45 miles.

Although its performance looks good on paper, these types of missiles lack sophisticated targeting capability since they need accurate targeting data to be provided from a great distance (hundreds of kilometers away) to operate effectively. While this is more feasible for air-launched operating schemes, the likelihood of the missile acquiring the correct target from this range is questionable, particularly under complex electronic warfare environment.

When engaging smaller targets, in open sea crowded with commercial shipping, such as the Eastern Med - this missile could be quite a serious threat to civilian vessels but is less likely to defeat protected, prepared and properly responding military vessels. Since the missile closes-in on its target at supersonic speed, the most likely line of defense against it are 'soft kill' ECM. Engagement by close-in weapon systems (CIWS) or point defense missiles which are effective against high subsonic missiles (such as C-802, Exocet or Harpoon) could be too late for active defense. However, being able to engage such threats from extended range, by defensive systems, such as the Standard SM-2/3 or IAI/Barak 8 will be very effective.

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